Sound farfetched? In some ways we are already there. Aside from Apple’s claims against its iPhone and iPad the entire Ultrabook phenomenon is built around copying the recipe behind the MacBook Air. Intel is the driving force behind it and the approach makes sense given the dearth of creativity shown by its partners up to now, but should they succeed there will be even less incentive for creativity afterwards. Replica MacBook’s will be seen everywhere… unless Apple wins its Samsung court case, resets its sights and forces a rethink.
And rethinking is great. Perhaps the most radical rethinking has been going on at rejuvenated Microsoft. Succeed or fail, no-one can accuse Microsoft of copying Apple with Windows Phone or Windows 8 nor can its inventive Surface tablet be seen as ripping off the iPad. Look further back and there is Kinect and Xbox Live. Again, there is more than one way to skin a cat.
In essence it all comes down to brand identity. The car industry is a good example. Just because Ferrari puts out a sensational new model does not mean BMW, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Audi and Rolls Royce all rush out to mimic it. The idea would be preposterous, an insult to their heritage and customer base. Each has the confidence to believe it can counter Ferrari with something better doing it the BMW-way, the Mercedes-way, the Aston Martin-way, the Audi-way, the Rolls Royce-way and so on.
Besides not everyone wants a Ferrari, there are BMW people, Mercedes people, Aston Martin people – you get the idea. For the time they have now been in existence, more of our biggest technology companies should have established such brand identities and customer allegiances as well.
Happily it isn’t all doom and gloom. As we have said Apple has its identity, so does Google and Microsoft is forging a new one. Similarly there are the likes of Loewe, Bose, Sonos and *cough* RIM. It ”can” be done, companies ”can” think harder, ”can” spend more time in creative meetings and less time studying Apple keynotes. But do you trust them to do so?
If Apple beats Samsung you won’t have to. Stricter laws will mean companies are forced to pursue their own paths and ‘can’ will be transformed into ‘must’. This is a good thing, it resets the rules for everyone – including any future copyright infringements by Apple, something of which Xerox would approve. Let’s hope the jury can see the big picture, the ‘tech’ in technicality must stop…