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"Good artists copy; great artists steal," Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said in the 1996 documentary, Triumph of the Nerds. Of course, he was quoting artist Pablo Picasso here (who in turn borrowed the phrase from others), but he went on about how that related to his company: "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."
And it's true. Apple famously took elements of a GUI that Xerox PARC had developed in the '80s, and used it in the operating system of its Macintosh and Lisa computers. Xerox later tried to sue Apple, and failed, just as Apple tried to sue Microsoft after the company dropped Windows 2.0. The last time I checked, Windows is still alive and well more than two decades later. The power behind our devices is increasing at a fast rate, year-by-year, and in order to keep up with the competition, this type of "stealing" still goes on today (as do the lawsuits). Between flip phones, smartphones, desktops, and tablets, designers take aspects from the leading device of the moment and incorporate it into their own products. Hell, Apple borrowed design inspiration from devices by Braun's Dieter Rams, which were made almost half a century ago (Apple's Jony Ive has admitted Rams is a big influence on his work, and Rams has said Apple is one of the only companies that has followed his design philosophies).
Yet, some companies are shameless in stealing designs (no quotes needed here), like the Chinese company Xiaomi, which has taken features from Apple when it comes to marketing, designing, and presenting their devices (examples below). The company even used Jobs' famous, "One more thing..." line during one of their events:
While straight up ripping off things from other companies and not even trying to mask it as original is pretty ruthless, taking elements from leading rivals does drive competitiveness—and competition drives ingenuity. And that's when the customers (you and I) get to look forward to cool devices that can also come at a lower price.
There hasn't been a device as of late that has been entirely original, as each one is built on some of the technological features that came before it—it's about taking what you can and making it the best, and in the end, the consumers decide if it'll sink or swim. Xiaomi rips off its designs? Yeah, well they just sold 2 million smartphones in a single day—which broke a Guinness World Record—and they regularly outsell Apple in China. Now they're moving on to GoPro-inspired devices and fitness wearables. The key? They're low-priced.
So, let's take a trip down some of the most blatant (and sometimes subtle) ways tech companies have borrowed cues from each other in order to stay on top of the game.