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Borrowed Innovation

There’s been a lot of negative talk about the fact that Apple are introducing technologies like Dashboard, Spotlight and Safari RSS into the forthcoming OS X 10.4 (Tiger) — since they are effectively incorporating the innovative ideas of independent developers, like those of (respectively) Konfabulator, LaunchBar and a variety of RSS readers. The main argument seems to be that Apple are killing their independent developers, which is a bad thing.

I believe it can be argued that it *does* make sense for Apple to take these kinds of actions, even if at the unfortunate cost to the small independent developer. I think the key issues are market penetration, ease of use/understanding, and a view to bettering the platform.

Tools like Konfabulator and LaunchBar are *very* innovative and add a *lot* of unique value to the OS X user experience. But due (probably) to the limited marketing resources, and other factors, such tools don’t end up making their way into the hands of the majority of OS X users. While I visit VersionTracker on a daily basis, and follow the RSS feeds of several Mac sites, my mother, on the other hand, is quite likely never to even hear about these utilities. She knows about Sherlock, but never heard of Watson. RSS readers? She’s not really even aware that she uses two different browsers, Safari or Internet Explorer. And I’ll bet there’s a lot more Mac users like my mom, than users like me.

Secondly, Apple have a way of making technology truly accessible to the average user. It seems to me that the developers of Konfabulator and LaunchBar target their software more to the advanced user. I’ll bet that Spotlight will likely require no user configuration, and will *not* come preconfigured to include the Apple Developer documention in search results. I’ll bet that Dashboard use and setup will be *much* easier to understand than Konfabulator. And I’ll bet that Safari RSS will finally bring an understanding of RSS to the masses. When Tiger is released, I’m quite confident that Dashboard and Spotlight will find their way seamlessly into my mother’s daily experience.

So Apple bringing innovation, even if not their own, to the masses is most likely a good thing for the OS X platform. And I would suppose — and this is just a guess — that it will not be *that* detrimental to the real market for advanced utilities like LaunchBar, Konfabulator and RSS readers (like PulpFiction or NetNewsWire.)

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  1. Sunny Sunny

    Mark, you are atleast making a distinction from folks who are saying that stealing is ok.

    No doubt that dashboard, spotlight should be part of the os. Yes they absolutely improve the user experience and frankly why should the end user bother about these apps? Like you said, it should be part of the os.

    But you have to draw the line when companies “borrow” the work of others and don’t compensate, let alone acknowledge. That is wrong. All Apple had to do was license Konfab and add it to OSX. Simple.

    BTW a measured, thoughtful article.

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