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2011: The Year Everyone Copied Apple

Gordon Kelly by


From 2006 to 2010 Apple ran its famous Get a Mac ad campaign. Actors differed from country to country, but the premise was always the same: a casually dressed 'cool' guy pretends to be a Mac and mocks his unfashionably dressed colleague who claims to be a PC. In 2008 Microsoft responded with its I'm a PC commercials to celebrate the diversity of its users and, by extension, the diversity of Windows computers. Whether or not consumers were impressed, it is now clear Microsoft's hardware partners were not.

In 2011 a different message now rings loud and clear: "I'm a Mac copy". The trend started in 2009 when HP released the Envy 15, but as IFA 2011 draws to a close it is clear the theme has not been innovation, but duplication.

Ultrabooks and tablets have been the stand out categories from this year's Berlin tech show. The former is a term coined by Intel representing ultra thin, affordable and powerful laptops. Intel enforces strict style, size, weight, component and pricing guidelines on manufacturers who wish to qualify for some of the CPU's giant's $300m subsidies. The result: every model announced - the Acer Aspire S3, Toshiba Portege Z830, Asus UX21 and Lenovo IdeaPad U300s - without exception, look exactly like the MacBook Air.


Don't feel sorry for manufacturers though, even without Intel's incentives they are still at it. At IFA Samsung launched the 15in Series 7 which is a clone of the MacBook Pro.

The main rival to Ultrabooks will be tablets. This sector is even more desperate to pay homage to Apple, having written off the form factor until the Cupertino giant took another stab at it. Now they all want back in, but despite increasingly impressive hardware the public have yet to be tempted. Right now the world's second largest selling tablet is discontinued. 21 months on from the announcement of the first iPad there can be few greater embarrassments.


What's more there will be legal consequences. In recent months Apple has launched a tidal wave of lawsuits upon those it believes to be the main offenders. Rightly or wrongly, some of those suits need to be won. This is why…

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September 4, 2011, 6:18 am

2011 will go down as the year Apple and the noun "Sue" became synonymous. Like Postal now refers to someone going beserk, people will say "He disprespectfully misrepresented me so I Appled him for libel." or "I made it look that way first so I Appled them for making it second, even though the design was fairly obvious and was in everyone's mind long before we made it".


September 4, 2011, 3:30 pm

One thing about Apple is their phones and tablets have the same connectors allowing users to buy third party equipment, and car manufacturs to fit docking stations in cars

Until other handset manufacturers establish a common system of charging and docking there will not be the amount of third party equipment needed to temp people away from Apple

Most people I know don't buy an iphone because its the best, they buy it because it has so many options for docking stations etc


September 5, 2011, 11:59 am

Most other manufacturers do have a common charging system and have had one for a few years now. Perhaps your familiar with the micro USB port?


September 5, 2011, 12:51 pm

To be fair, once you've established that you're going to have a touch screen and it's going to be a rectangle there's not that much scope for individuality. The same argument could be used for SLRs, TVs and a host of other gadgets, unless you're a complete nerd (or indeed a reader of trusted reviews) you'd have trouble telling most of them apart without "Sony" or "Panasonic" written in large letters on the front.

Ala Miah

September 5, 2011, 3:46 pm

Nobody else has as good hardware designers as apple and simple fact is that if you can't beat them, copy them. Consumers get better looking alternative devices. What's wrong with that?


September 5, 2011, 3:55 pm

People are so biased towards Apple is sickens me.

People don't copy Apple, APPLE copys other people.

Companies copied the iPhone look? your kidding right.

If that's the case iPhone copied the Prada, the prada was shown to the public months before the iphone was. So how is the iPhone the phone "everyone" copied, its pure garbage.

Secondly, the iPad.... seriously? it looks the same/similar to electronic picture frames from years ago, and a tablet isn't new the concept has been around for years.

Like Fleabane said, how can someone copy a rectangle, its a shape i learnt when i was able to crawl, ir's ridiculous, xxx copied, apple is no different to any other industry on the planet, everyone feeds of everyone.

Apple is no different, and feeds of other companies as much as companies feed of them.

But hey oh, never mind, just say it as though Apple is in the right.


September 5, 2011, 4:07 pm

Of course Apple also periodically change the requirements for successful docking, invalidating the compatibility of your current peripherals and requiring you to purchase newer models.
Win for Apple, win for peripheral manufacturer, lose for customer..


September 5, 2011, 5:48 pm

Because Apple products are a certain style - stripped down and minimalist. Not everyone likes Apple designs, much in the way not everyone likes Porsche or Aston Martin.


September 5, 2011, 5:53 pm

'Everyone' is not a literal term. There are some companies which have not copied Apple, but that is an increasingly small number.

It isn't that touchscreen style phones or tablets cannot look similar it is the fact gratuitous copying is going on which amounts to theft. I accept you can find examples that go against this, of course you can, but to deny the new Ultrabooks are anything other than a blatant rip-off of Apple styling on a global scale would be to pull the wool over your eyes. Can you seriously see such disregard for IP in any other sector?

It is an increasing trend and a horribly depressing one. People want choice, Apple's style isn't the only way to make desirable electronics. The suggestion is companies find their own style not spend their time ripping off someone else's.


September 5, 2011, 5:55 pm

Agreed, but that philosophy doesn't explain the gratuitous styling of Ultrabooks...

Beyond styling it is also about the products themselves. iPhone = everyone makes touchscreen phones. iPad = everyone makes tablets. Let's see technological and design innovation and less outrageous duplication.

These companies spend millions on R&D, you'd think the least they could do would be to find their own style.


September 6, 2011, 3:25 am

No of course i can't deny that, it saddens me that people do copy such designs, but still, theres only so many ways you can design rectangles.

My issues itsn't so much with Apple it's more the constant reporting of them, there's other parts of the tech industry.

When Samsung introduced their "Touch of colour" range, with the dark black bezel with a hint of red that made it really stand out, i didn't see articles about how LG done something similar with a bluish hint rather than red.

I can't deny Apples products are not very good, nor that their designs are very pleasing, but at the same time articles such as this make them out as the be all and end all of the tech industry, nothing they have is original, not one thing.

Yes their designs are original (ish) but these trends go on in other parts of the industry, such as TVs, Cameras etc, yet how come there's no articles about them?

I didn't mean to snap at you Gordon, but its annoying every tech site, jumps to Apple, as soon as they do something its reported, each news article is broken down into 3 or 4 articles, then it's has its own article analysing it then a retrospective.

NO OTHER COMPANY gets this coverage, that's the main issue i have.

You can argue Apple deserve it, its popular, it's what people want to read etc, but other companies still deserve as much coverage.

The reason Apple is so popular is because its so wildly reported while other companies get very little coverage in comparison.

Admittedly, this was the wrong site to bring this up on, TR is no where near as bad as other sites i have seen, but i can't be bothered to sign up to hundreds of sites to make the point.

Anything thanks for the response.


September 7, 2011, 3:04 pm

Nice piece, Gordon. I generally like your opinion pieces.

The big exception to the trend you identify is, of course, Microsoft. They've learnt a major lesson from the success of Apple products - the importance of a friendly UI - but they've *not* tried to copy them. WinPo 7 is perhaps the best example. They were making an OS for touchscreen smartphones (or PDA phones, as they used to be called) well before the iPhone. Sure, they changed what they were doing after the iPhone blew WinMo out of the water, but WinPo 7 isn't a copy of the iPhone in any way, and Metro OS isn't even inspired by the iOS UI in the way Android is. Ditto tablets - they'd been going on about them for ages (I've had Windows tablets since 2003 or so), and whilst they've figured out that they need to rethink their approach post-iPad, they're again not copying the iOS approach. I don't think they've quite gotten it right, but it's at least nice to see that they have a different vision of what these products should be like.

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