So, a couple of weeks ago, our submissions were slammed by a whole bunch of you with submission subjects along the lines of "Gizmodo is losing it" or "Gizmodo fails" or "Gizmodo doesn't get innovation" (all actual submissions). senshikaze
got the first submission in, though, and so gets the credit. From the summaries, it was clear that Gizmodo had published a pro-patent post, and specifically a pro-Apple patent post, written by Jesus Diaz. Figuring that it was a long and thorough defense of Apple and patents, and knowing I had a crazy busy few weeks, I actually set aside the post to wait until I had a nice block of time to read it and think about it. I always like thoughtful pieces that disagree with my general outlook on things, because they often make me think and reconsider my viewpoint. Unfortunately, this piece was not that, and I shouldn't have bothered waiting. This was claptrap.
The entire crux of the argument is in this sentence, which says that we should celebrate the complete dismissal of any product that has any element of an idea from someone else:
Because they are a cheap bag of lazy, unimaginative bastards, that's why.
Yeah, according to Diaz and Gizmodo, the point of the patent system is that everyone should reinvent the wheel every time they want to build a new car:
Those rivals, like Google, Samsung, or HTC, just said "oh fuck this, let's all do the same" and came up with devices that are mostly copies of what Apple put out in their first iPhone. Sure, they added some stuff of their own and sure, Apple's user interface has some aspects that are not original. But mostly the iPhone's competitors are clones that show no imagination, no better ways to do things.
Of course, seeing as some of Apple's recent "innovations" actually copy directly back
from Google, Samsung or HTC, should we say the same thing about Apple?
Sometimes we've seen similar arguments in our comments, and it's ignorant of history, of economics and of innovation. Innovation is all about building on the backs of others, taking what works, but improving and changing in other areas. Apple's second big hit, the Macintosh, borrowed liberally from the graphical user interface designed at Xerox PARC (which itself borrowed liberally from the work at SRI). But it added key innovations on top of it and around it
. And that's how real innovation works. It's not in starting from scratch and reinventing. It's from building on what else is there, and making it better and more compelling, or tweaking it for a different market. None of that precludes doing something entirely new, but making everyone start from scratch to do something entirely new is ridiculous
Hell, let's take Diaz's argument to it's insane logical conclusion. Motorola invented the first handheld mobile phone. Thus, really, shouldn't Apple be working on something different than a mobile phone? After all, by making a mobile phone, all it's really doing is being "a cheap bag of lazy, unimaginative bastards." Instead, Apple should have come up with a totally new way of communicating.
And, really, the specifics of Diaz's post are even more ridiculous. In it he praises the fact that Samsung's devices may get blocked out of the EU entirely because they have a "swipe to unlock" feature -- a tiny feature among thousands of features on a mobile device today. And, if we really broke down all of the possible features on a standard iPhone or iPad today, how many do you really think were first invented by Apple? According to Diaz, Apple should have come up with brand new ways of doing all of that. They shouldn't have email (done by someone else). No web browser (someone else did that too). Apps? I mean, come on, how derivative can they be?
Innovation is the process of improving on what came before, and part of that is taking what came before and building on it. Sometimes it will involve something entirely new, but that's exceptionally rare. In most cases, it's a minor tweak. Hell, one of the most famous "inventors" in the world is Thomas Edison, and really, when you look, almost all of his "inventions" were really minor tweaks
on work others had done. But if the Diaz/Gizmodo view of the world held true, Edisons "minor tweak" to make a lightbulb actually work, would have been a waste because, you know, someone else already had created the lightbulb.
Innovation involves copying. Out of that copying come improvement and new ideas. Complaining about something just because it involves some element of copying is not complaining about a lack of innovation. It's complaining about some artificial useless standard.