Why I’m Not Worried About Apple Knockoffs

by Christopher Paul on September 10, 2012

This morning, everyone linked to the latest Apple copy from HP. They certainly aren't the first – Acer, Samsung, Dell, and so many others have copied Apple one degree or another. If I recall correctly, phones were first. Laptops followed. Desktops were next. In the PC space, things looked familiar but, in my opinion, not an exact copy. But clearly that's no longer the case.

Everyone has recreated the MacBook Air and iMac hardware by now. HP has gone several steps further by recreating Apple's keyboard and Magic TrackPad. If it weren't for the USB ports on the side of the base, it might be hard for someone outside of the tech industry to know what they were looking at wasn't an Apple Cinema Display. It's probably harder to tell the difference between some laptops and Airs.

Apple fans might look at this as a blatant ripoff. That was my first reaction, too. It sill has left a sour feeling knowing that years of iterative design that culminated in the unique brand Apple created was wiped away by knockoffs. But as I thought about it more, I'm less bothered by it.

First, no one – especially Apple fans – should believe that their beloved company will be on top forever. I love their products and I know it's inevitable. Accept that and move on.

Second, Apple knows this. They know their products are going to be copied. They know imitators are everywhere and they can't litigate against everyone. They know they need to disrupt themselves and others to stay ahead. So far, they've been doing a great job at it.

Third, no one should want Apple to have a monopoly on hardware design forever. Sure, a nice lead would be good for us fans. But Apple – like all companies – would slow down their innovation and we'd all lose. We'd be stuck with the same unibody hardware from 2008. My late 2008 MBP would still be the body current models use if Apple wasn't forced (by market pressures or themselves) to make such a thin and light weight retina laptop. They need to be ahead of the industry – lead it. And Apple fans will continue to benefit from their innovation so long as they can keep it up.

But truth be told, HP and Samsung cannot catch up to Apple. Regardless of what their hardware looks like – even if it has useful features to some like the USB ports on the base – they won't have the OS. They won't have the ecosystem. They won't have the wow factor. They won't have customer service. And they won't have all the other smaller details that, when added up, make all the difference.

When I moved from a PC to a Mac, I didn't do it for the looks. I did it for the OS. I stayed because things worked and I learned to appreciate Apple's soft and hard design. People who buy the HP 'whatever' think they're getting a cool computer when they're getting a wolf in sheep's clothing. They will still be frustrated with it in a few months. Perhaps, they'll become accelerated Apple users when they get the design but don't get the rest of what Apple offers.

And, perhaps, it's in Apple's favor to let knockoffs help get PC users used to good design and let Apple take their business when they realize the only get half of the value proposition.

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