In reality, the iPhone, as
nice as it is, is derivative of the products that preceded it in the market.
While Apple did a beautiful job of the user interface, and made a device that's
attractive enough to garner a gazillion followers and an ecosystem that was
just closed enough to control while being open enough to gain a great deal of
external support, the iPhone still depended on the work of others.
This is true of Apple's
products in general. As nice as the original Macintosh may have been, it
depended on Xerox for the original design for the interface. As nice as the
Apple II may have been, it too was based on predecessors. But this isn't to
suggest that the Macintosh or the Apple II were bad computers or that they
shouldn't have been developed using the concepts of others. There really is no
Despite Apple's claims of
uniqueness, the company couldn't have been completely unique if it expected to
actually sell computers. Apple didn't invent computing after all. The company
simply developed software using a different approach from what was emerging
elsewhere at the time. Of course, Apple insisted on using a closed platform.
The company refused, except for a brief time, to allow clones of its product.
And when clones did appear, Apple put them out of business.
I suspect that the only
reason Apple escaped the interest of the U.S. Justice Department is that the
market share at the time was so small that it would be hard to prove anticompetitive
behavior. But the fact is that Apple could never have existed if not for the
ideas and creations of other companies. And there's nothing wrong with that.
For technology to exist at
all, it can't possibly be invented afresh every time. Great products depend on
earlier ones that manage to move the state of the art forward. They depend on
other changes in other technologies, and they depend on a vast range of ideas
beyond the reach of any single company or any single person. Likewise, designs
grow from other designs from other places. And companies that believe that
their designs are somehow unique and divorced from everything are deluding
So why was it that Jobs was
so irate about Android? Was it because Android came from the company run by Eric
Schmidt, one of his board members? I'm sure that Jobs' sense of betrayal was
rooted in this and in his belief that he was the only one who had great ideas.
But the fact is that the world is full of great ideas. What Apple did was take
some of those great ideas and execute them very well. That in itself is great
enough. You don't need to denigrate others who do the same. And when Jobs did
that, he diminished himself in the process.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÃÃÃs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.