Why Apple's sometimes an incredible Hulk

12th Jun 2012 | 07:30

Why Apple's sometimes an incredible Hulk

Not everyone Apple crushes is an enemy

If there was any doubts that Apple's genius is often in execution, not innovation, this year's WWDC 2012 keynote blew them away: while many of the things we saw were wonderful, many of them were awfully familiar too - especially when it came to software and services.

Take dictation, for example. Remember when built-in voice recognition was a selling point for Windows Vista and Windows 7? I can go back even further: I was trying and failing to get voice recognition to understand my accent back when by law, every mention of Apple had to be accompanied by the word "beleaguered".

Power Nap? Intel's Always On, Always Connected. iOS Maps? Google Maps, obviously. Safari's unified address/search bar and cloud-based tab syncing? Chrome, and Chrome Tab Sync. Offline Reading List? Instapaper. The iPhone's new do not disturb features? Android. At WWDC, Apple even copied Top Gear's The Stig.

Does it matter that Apple often perfects rather than invents?

Small talk

The answer depends on what Apple's implementing, I think, and why it's doing it. Some changes - such as unified browser address and search bars - are so obviously good ideas that not including them is just being arsey for the sake of it. Adding them to Safari just brings it up to date with desktop browsers.

Apple's relationship with Google has long resembled a married couple heading for a bitter divorce, so replacing Google Maps has been on the cards for ages. Cloud-based syncing is something users have demanded, and so on.

Apple's desire to control everything is fair enough when it's a fight between equals, such as the battle between it and Google. However, it doesn't look so good when the idea Apple's implementing belongs to someone much smaller.

There's an example of that in iOS 6, I think, with Safari's Instapaper-esque offline reading: seeing Safari effectively cut Instapaper off from new customers made me sad, because it looks like the latest case of Apple squashing an independent developer by putting a me-too version of their idea into the operating system. At least when Steve Jobs dismissed Dropbox as a feature, not a product, he offered a nine-figure buyout first.

I'm sure Instapaper will survive - it's a superb app, and now it's available on Android it deserves a whole new audience - but it does feel like Apple's wounded it for no good reason.

I think that's particularly sad because, for me at least, Instapaper is one of the things that made me wax lyrical to others about my iOS devices, and it was one of the first apps I'd show iPhone unbelievers. It'd be a shame if, in its desire to crush its rivals, Apple crushed some of its best supporters too.

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