The Evolution Of The App Dock: Apple Didn't Invent It And Doesn't Deserve A Patent On It
from the prior-art,-anyone? dept
Earlier this year, there was some buzzing among Apple loyalists that Dell was copying Apple when it launched a “Dell Dock” offering that would highlight what applications were open. The creators of the Dell Dock, a company called Stardock, then put up a fantastic blog post detailing the history and evolution of such docks, which came from many places well before Apple, and each step of the way added a little feature here or there, in a normal evolutionary manner. It was a great post that I had considered writing about, because it really did an excellent job highlighting how these things “evolve” via different companies, all trying to improve on an idea, and why claiming “ownership” or giving a monopoly to one provider was not just pointless, but would likely hinder innovation. I didn’t end up writing it up because I got busy and it slipped through the cracks.
But I remembered it when I opened up a Slashdot post announcing that Apple had patented the dock, after a long battle with the Patent Office. The patent itself does recount some history of this element of UIs and tries to suggest that Apple’s implementation is really unique and non-obvious. But it’s difficult to see how anyone could read the real history and evolution of docks, which that Stardock blog post clearly lays out above, and not think that Apple’s “innovations” here are the totally obvious next steps of the evolution. It’s even more difficult to see how innovation is advanced by granting Apple a monopoly here. Obviously, for many years, innovation in this space occurred because multiple companies were competing with each other to provide a better user interface. So they would one-up each other. Giving Apple a monopoly to stop others from taking the next step in the evolution is putting the brakes on innovation, not helping it along.