This morning we brought you news that Google’s X labs employees are pulling some seriously long shifts to turn the Google Voice Actions feature in Android phones into a Siri rival, but is this ethos of copying Apple stifling creativity in tech?

I’ll be honest; hardcore Android fans aren’t going to like this article all that much; the crux of my argument is that Apple generally innovates with tech whereas other companies imitate.

There are obvious exceptions to this which I’ll get out of the way first: a drop-down notification window, widgets and, indeed, voice control elements were first implemented in Android and then brought to iOS, but these are just incremental features within an operating system, not technologies that become real talking points or applications that breed entirely new products.

It’s these kind of creative leaps that Apple specialise in more than anyone else. Google Voice Actions has been sitting around idly in Android handsets for 18 months, but it took a shock to Google’s system, delivered by Siri, to kick it back up the priority list for Mountain View’s finest.

See the Siri rivals for your phone

What pains me is that it’s an obvious move to incorporate a natural language recognition tool. It’s obvious that you need to make it system-wide; you shouldn’t need Apple to tell you that, especially if – like Google – you’ve hoovered up a collection of the best sound and voice engineers in the world.

And that’s what’s annoying. Only when a company sees Apple augment technology into something truly headline-worthy do they think it necessary to do the same. Amazon bought a voice recognition company called Yap almost immediately after the iPhone 4S and Siri were revealed to the world.

Was nobody thinking about this before?

It’s not just voice technology though. The tech industry’s copycat nature is much further reaching. Remember the ill-fated Google TV? It was three years late to a party that Apple TV started, albeit rather limply.

I’m not opening the floor to a debate on how good either one of these products are, but Google seems to skulk into everything it does these days with a half-hearted attitude.

Google TV launched with about as much confidence as Woody Allen on a first date, and soon disappeared into nothingness and waning support from its hardware partners.

It was as if Google just tried to tick the box with a bodge job, shoehorning Android and Chrome into a place they just weren’t designed for, just to say that it’s got something similar in its roster before moving on to the next. The recent launch of Google Music is much the same.

Curve jumping

The disparity comes from Apple’s seemingly supernatural ability to look further than its rivals, whatever the current implementation is.

Guy Kawasaki, a former Apple employee and technology evangelist calls this “curve jumping” citing Apple’s laser printers as a prime example.

Instead of bettering their ribbon-and-ink machines and competing on the same crowded turf as rivals, the company pushed forward into the next league of paper-churners and turned out some of the world’s first affordable laser-based machines. Instantly better, instantly ahead of the competition.

Fast forward to today, and you’ve got the same examples littered throughout the company’s hardware and software histories.

Let’s look at the Apple iMac desktops: as soon as Apple started making them into thin, sexy all-in-one machines, a slew of identikit clones started hitting the shelves from the likes of HP and Lenovo.

Likewise, the iPad. I don’t have time for anyone who genuinely tries to fight the corner that Apple didn’t invent the tablet. It did. Let’s move on. Unless you really, honestly want to run Windows 95 in the palm of your hand, on a device that weighs the same as a suitcase. Maybe both hands.

The same goes for the latest trend in Ultrabooks. I’ve gone on about it at length before, but an Ultrabook is a MacBook Air and, make no mistake, that was the first.

The industry seems to have aligned itself into a crippling position of waiting and reacting, but inevitably it’s Apple that most are waiting for.

I know Apple hires a lot of talented people, but I refuse to believe that the rival companies don’t also have the brainpower and foresight to jump curves and show us something new.

Apple’s most talented recruit?

And worse than being a bugbear, it’s starting to poison the tech world. Imagine a music chart where everyone waited to see what Rhianna did, and then just tried their best to copy the song as closely as possible without being sued.

That’s where we’re at with tech. It doesn’t breed creativity, it stifles it, and while I’d love for you to come up with some examples in the comments section below that prove me wrong, I don’t think you will. Consider this a challenge.

But remember: I’m not talking about the wee exceptions to this rule; forget your small tweaks to operating systems. I mean the big stuff: the product categories. The devices. The operating systems themselves. The far superior use of existing technology. It all seems to spill out of Apple’s HQ before anyone else’s, while the continuing pattern of half-arsed copying makes everyone else look foolish.

 

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, are you suggesting that Apple are creative, and therefore stifle creativity? Are… are you actually making that argument? Rather than placing the blame on the tech companies that would rather copy than be creative themselves?

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to comment again, but by this line of reasoning perhaps Apple should just stop being creative (although even that label is debatable, perhaps “innovative” is a better term,) so that people won’t have anyone to copy from!

    That’s like kicking the smart kid out of class so that the stupid kids will stop copying their answers…

    • http://twitter.com/adambunker Adam Bunker

      Not sure if you came here via our tweet? That kind of did suggest that Apple’s to blame, but the article clearly lays the blame at the hands of its rivals. Google etc seem to be doing nothing to buck the trend of copying.

      • Anonymous

        The original message was received at 2011-12-17 22:16:31 +0000
        from postoffice.Home [10.0.0.1]

        —– The following addresses had permanent fatal errors —–

        —–Transcript of session follows —–
        … while talking to postoffice.Home.:

  • Hatchleader

    The netbook is the one of the few areas i can think of that was a reasonable success without apples involvment and that is now faling by the wayside in favour of tablets and ultrabooks. The only other thing i can think of is OnLive…. but it is still in the ‘Wait and See’ section for its proof of concept test.

    I hate Apple products with a passion, their whole ethos and atmosphere is controlling and closed off… but i cant help but agree that Apple are the most innovative company around by a mile.

    • James Holland

      I agree completely – and applaud your final sentence. If only all tech fans were as well rounded!

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure that Siri and natural language are the best examples of this. Android really does need this, because Google ultimately is about delivering search results. And you need natural language recognition for more searches.

    I prefer to think of it this way. Many OEMs imitate, Apple augments. Google launched voice actions first, but with Siri Apple delivered an improved version of this concept.

  • Anonymous

    Apple being creative? They stopped doing that a long time ago.  As for Siri, well they bought the company, that is hardly being creative.

    • Palidin4

      No the fax machine was CREATED….long after the telephone and copier existed. Just because Van Gough didn’t invent the paint…doesn’t mean he was not creative. Besides with as with these examples, who cares who invented what? Innovation in itself IS CREATIVITY!!!!!!. Microsoft didn’t invent windows but they were creative enough to make it more practical to use and afford. How many of you android geeks would turn down investment shares of Apple? The funny thing is that Apple as a company was Created using PC’s, because they were the best and only computers during that time. What I pray for is new companies coming in the mix with new ideas. We don’t need everyone acting like Apple. What is needed are new and CREATIVE ideas to bring about a never ending revolution to computing!

      • thud

        apple made the first home pcs and software check you history 

      • Rogerbiggs

         Actually the fax machine was invented before the telephone, seems incredible, but is true.

      • Rogerbiggs

         Actually the fax machine was invented before the telephone, seems incredible, but is true.

  • Anonymous

    Apple generally innovates with tech whereas other companies imitate?????  
    So your saying Apple had the ipad so then others copied if that is your argument then apple copied others at the iphone was not the worlds fist touchscreen phone, but at that time it was a better user experience.

    The iphone pull down menu to display alerts is a Direct copy rip off of Android.

    • Anonymous

      Did you read the article? I did concede that the pull-down notification menu was on Android first, but that’s one small element of an overall OS. There were touchscreen phones before the iPhone, but to say that it copied others is very naive. Check out the 2007 keynote speech where Apple unveiled the iPhone:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lyx_va6f10s

      It was a revelation. Everything on that OS was a truly innovative application of existing technology, which is exactly my point.

  • Anthem

    How about google maps and navigation apple implemented it on the phone side first but they had to take it from google to start with and the built in satnav/navigation.
     
    also I was using an htc hd2 that had facebook and twitter integrated directly into the contacts system long before it was available on the iphone and being able to combine all social data for each user was definitely a big improvement ,the same as searching on google maps for a shop/restaurant and creating a contact from there and having it direct you straight there as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KaranHarshWardhan Narak Wh

    also what about windows phone? their live tile interface thingy is pretty cool. wasn’t copied either!

    • Anonymous

      Agree with you there, but it’s taken them absolutely ages to ‘click’ that they need a decent mobile OS. Too long, and now WP7 is playing catch up.

    • Anonymous

      Agree with you there, but it’s taken them absolutely ages to ‘click’ that they need a decent mobile OS. Too long, and now WP7 is playing catch up.

    • James Holland

      Couldn’t agree more. I actually love Windows Phone 7′s clean interface. I think Apple will eventually end up copying it, rather ironically.

  • http://twitter.com/lexplex_ lexusperplexus

    Anyone that’s got experience with the Asian Pacific Tech industry will tell you a completely different story, especially since they’ve had touchscreen colour tablet PCs since 2005, voice recognition features in PDAs since, oh, I first played with a Korean one in 1997.

    You’ve got a very good point about other Western tech companies playing copycat, but Apple is yet to innovate technology – all it does is put existing tech into a pretty package and market it as ‘magic’. 

    Like I’ve said before, the MacBook Air wipes the floor with all the other Ultrabooks, but under the extremely sexy exterior is Intel technology.  

    My bugbear with the industry is that they’re trying to play catch-up with the technology, but not trying to catch up with Apple’s marketing methods, which is where the real genius lies. 

    • Jaamgans

      Well said – I have always said that Apple swopped innovation for marketing and that is what they have been for the last decade or so – not an innovator but a genius at marketing. Virtually everything we currently see from them is not an innovation – its in same cases an improvement (but not always) – but what some people see as an “Innovation” is clearly superb marketing. The next time they launch a feature like FaceTime, Siri etc note the wording they use – they never ever say the feature is innovative – they imply it but they don’t say – and that is the genius to their marketing and unfortunately people like adam don’t differentiate between the two.

      That being said is it bad all this copying – no of course not – it causes people to improve and in some very few cases we come up with some new innovations (true ones). Without a driving force there would be no improvements and no innovations – and currently the driving force is competition via flattery (or copying if you prefer).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Henderson/100000311850141 Mike Henderson

    ” I don’t have time for anyone who genuinely tries to fight the corner that Apple didn’t invent the tablet. It did. ”

    No they didnt. What happened is that regardless of who else had brought out a tablet, regardless of spec it wasnt going to sell. However, as Apple brought one out, the millions of fans bought into it regardless of spec. Its that simple, I’m surprised you dont see it.

    • Anonymous

      It’s very simplistic to say that iPads have been selling just to Apple fans. That’s one part of their market, but I’d bet the farm on the fact that millions upon millions of iPads have sold to people who’ve never bought an Apple product before.

      Apple didn’t invent the concept of a tablet computer, but they invented the tablet computer as it is now. Walk into any computer shop and look at the tablets on offer; they’re all devices made in response to the iPad. Archos had some tablets kicking about before but they were marketed as PMPs and nothing more.

      If you’re looking at the market as it is right now, and what a tablet means in that space, it’s Apple’s doing. Sorry, but that’s true.

    • Anonymous

      It’s very simplistic to say that iPads have been selling just to Apple fans. That’s one part of their market, but I’d bet the farm on the fact that millions upon millions of iPads have sold to people who’ve never bought an Apple product before.

      Apple didn’t invent the concept of a tablet computer, but they invented the tablet computer as it is now. Walk into any computer shop and look at the tablets on offer; they’re all devices made in response to the iPad. Archos had some tablets kicking about before but they were marketed as PMPs and nothing more.

      If you’re looking at the market as it is right now, and what a tablet means in that space, it’s Apple’s doing. Sorry, but that’s true.

    • Anonymous

      It is simple, but not how you see it – if anyone else had cultivated a sense of brand based on creativity, innovation and ease of use in the way Apple did, then it could have sewn up the tablet market if it tried.

      Also, I don’t think it’s wise to assume people just buy Apple products for the sake of it – they keep selling more and more because people love their products. If that wasn’t the case sales would have dipped years ago. The only company that has millions of customers and doesn’t deserve them is BT.

  • Ernstcomplete

    This is journalism? The whole ‘apple is better than everything’ jive is getting so tedious.

    • Anonymous

      What is journalism?

    • Anonymous

      What is journalism?

    • James Holland

      Did you read the whole thing? It’s more like: “come on Google, Microsoft… HP! We *want* you to do better” It’s actually quite anti-Apple, in that way.

  • Anon

    Saying that Apple is creative is the first mistake.

    • Anonymous

      How so? I don’t know how any adult in their right mind can legitimately say that it’s not a creative company. 

      • David

        its interesting how you cleverly include insults to anyone that sees different to you.

    • Anonymous

      How so? I don’t know how any adult in their right mind can legitimately say that it’s not a creative company. 

  • Tomqiu

    How about Push Notifications??? Pretty sure that wasn’t just an “incremental” feature.

  • Anonymous

    I have to disagree with the core claim in this article that Apple always innovates.
    - Smartphones and apps were not a new innovation
    - FaceTime was not a new innovation
    - Voice control was not a new innovation
    - Video through the internet was not a new innovation

    You talk about incremental features yet that is what Apple mostly does but the steps they take are more than other companies. They take a fledgling feature and then they polish it into a diamond and then they use their marketing machinery and incredibly devoted followers to publicise it as a completely new feature.

    That is not innovation.

    • paulbut

      midnightz you are not looking at it the right way. it’s the way Apple bring these ideas together and get them to seamlessly work together that is innovative. Car manufacturers don’t reinvent a wheel when they design a new car model. I’m with Adam, others need to stop copying and launch something Apple doesn’t already have in its portfolio.

    • Palidin4

      Exactly what would you call innovation then?
      We all agree that App;e was not the inventor of a lot of things, but they were certainly innovative in the implementation of many things. Hmmm, maybe Apple is so profitable and their stock so high…simply because they were lucky. Get real dude, hating Apple is not innovative or creative, just pure “Sour Grapes” envy for most of the other companies. I love the fact that it is generally an American based company that scares the hell out of its Asian and European tech based counterparts.

  • http://twitter.com/kevpurchase Kev Purchase

    Google had voice search and commands long before Apple. It’s actually pretty awesome on older versions of Android such as 2.3. Apple made it fluffy and friendly. So Google innovated, Apple refined.

    • Kervin

      Actually everyone keeps forgetting that iPhones had a similar form of voice commands to the current Android offering since iOS 3.0, almost 1 year before Android (it’s still present on any iPhone apart from the 4S).

      • Anonymous

        Android’s were far more comprehensive than those found on iOS before Siri, but Siri eclipsed that in turn. That said, there’s still the odd thing Android can do that Siri can’t – navigation in the UK, for instance.

    • Kervin

      Actually everyone keeps forgetting that iPhones had a similar form of voice commands to the current Android offering since iOS 3.0, almost 1 year before Android (it’s still present on any iPhone apart from the 4S).

  • Red

    Where’s the creativity? Voice recognition has been around for years and Apple did not invent it. Neither did they invent smartphone’s nor touch-screens – where do you get your idea’s from?

    • Mick Galt

      nor did they invent the tablet PC.

    • Mick Galt

      nor did they invent the tablet PC.

    • Mick Galt

      nor did they invent the tablet PC.

  • jimbo

    Apple copied VLINGO imho

  • http://fearless-assassins.com/forum BBL

    What it’s amazing to read, that when Apple buy or integrate new features and even create or bring new things to the market, Some people gonna say: it’s  not apple who did the work , they just buy existing technology… Blabla… they did nothing, no credits for apple at all /

    But When google do the same, like for example buying Android in 2005 from Rubin (an ex-manufacturing engineer at apple), and now well the same people gonna give all credits to google … Just Wow

    l dont care who did or had the first technology, but I care more about how that company gonna bring the new features and technologies and make them easy and perfectly integrated, so people can use them, which Apple done perfectly, and now I hope Google with last ICS 4
    when you read Andrew Mann Google+ about why Android interface haven’t the same smooth, as in iOS and WP7, reading this little explanation: “Google began developing its platform in 2005-2006, even before the announcement of iPhone, intending to compete with BlackBerry. Therefore, the origins of its operating system had no touch screens – but only a keyboard and trackball.”

    No need to be smart to understand that Android os wasn’t suppose to be used for touch screen, but Google (as Apple) saw where the future will be when they saw the  iPhone.. that’s all, and good for them and for the customers, because competition is always good

  • Matthew Lyons

    “Was nobody thinking about this before?”Of course they were, do you really think that Google the company that has been pioneering voice controls in to their OS weren’t already working on natural language voice search?

    Apple do not innovate, in fact they are the ultimate copycats they just manage to fool people into thinking they were the first to do it. Their biggest creative contribution is marketing.

    How can you write off recent Apple copying as an incremental update, but when Google update their already established voice controls with natural language you accuse them of copying? Are you for real?

    Also having used Siri I hope Google haven’t copied them because lets face it Siri sucks.

    It wasn’t clear if Adam was suggesting Apple invented the tablet computer with the Ipad (I really hope not) or the Newton (A better guess but wrong). Surely if we are crediting anyone with inventing or at the least conceptualising the tablet computer the credit goes to Alan Kay. Not Apple.

    • Palidin4

      The Wright Brothers were the first to actually fly, but they did not invent the Jet. Just because  you call these old things tablets doesn’t make them one. No that victory goes to the one that makes them practical and affordable…and that is Apple.

      • Anonymous

        Bingo.

  • Thomas O Hagan

    Copying Apple? Lest we remind you of the mouse, the mp3 player, the tablet, the phone, voice controls, iMessenger……the list goes on, Apple copy most of the things that they claim to be revolutionary! Next year they will bring out the iPhone 5 and claim to have invented NFC

    • Anonymous

      To be fair, Apple doesn’t claim to invent these things. It says it re-invents them, and sometimes it does so with ease of use that lives up to that. The iPad, iPhone and Siri are great examples of that. FaceTime not so much.

  • Bqbmore

    Actually Apple Siri did make some major enhancments to a technology that Google did first with “Google voice”. Also tablets are not new they have been used in industrial fields, as slate computers.

    • Kervin

      Actually everyone keeps forgetting that iPhones had a similar form of voice commands to the current Android offering since iOS 3.0, almost 1 year before Android (it’s still present on any iPhone apart from the 4S).

    • Kervin

      Actually everyone keeps forgetting that iPhones had a similar form of voice commands to the current Android offering since iOS 3.0, almost 1 year before Android (it’s still present on any iPhone apart from the 4S).

  • Bqbmore

    Actually Apple Siri did make some major enhancments to a technology that Google did first with “Google voice”. Also tablets are not new they have been used in industrial fields, as slate computers.

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