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Monkey See, Monkey Do: The Biggest Copy Cats in the Tech Marketing Game

Everywhere you look, major technological platforms are getting ripped off -- and ripping someone else off at the same time. Take the recent innovation of the mobile credit card swipe device, for example. No sooner did it hit the market than so many versions were fluttering around it was difficult to know exactly who launched it.

Whether it’s on the level of hardware like smartphones or social media and email platforms, the titans of tech are all competing to become the one-size-fits-all final destination for consumers by rolling out any number of dupes of existing apps, devices, and website functions. But is this necessarily a bad thing? Here are a few snapshots from the ongoing clone wars at a number of levels.

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Image Courtesy of Maria Elena at Flickr.com

Google Keep

A few years back, Evernote set the standard for tech-driven personal productivity with its cross-platform organizational program that lets users take notes through a keypad, cut-and-pasted data, or even through photos. With intuitive sharing functions, Evernote was an immediate hit in the workplace.

Although Google is usually quick to unveil its particular spin on new wizardry, in this case the web behemoths were slow on the draw in rolling out Keep, it’s cloud-based app for keeping desks and minds uncluttered. Needless to say, Keep is like all Google offerings designed for use in conjunction with its Drive storage to collate the sundry lists and reminders our busy days generate.

While Keep may not necessarily trump Evernote’s original, it’s a good example of how a pregnant pause in the aping game can benefit the knock-off. In this case, Google was able to take advantage of bulletin chatter to pre-emptively respond to another company’s feedback.  Using its Voice function, for example, Keep magically transcribes dictated bright ideas into text and then makes them easy to share with Android functionality.

Teso’s “iPad”

No round-up of technological copying can be complete without a look at the unabashed Canal Street-style knockoffs. In other words, we’re not talking mere mimicry of functions and overall design, but outright grey market piracy. The scary thing is that many of these back-of-a-virtual-flatbed rip-offs aren’t that bad.

Consider Teso’s 10-inch screen ersatz iPad.  With its Atom processor, current Windows OS, and 3G-powered wireless internet capabilities, you’d be hard pressed to unearth anything of significance Teso’s fake tablet can’t do in comparison with the Apple original.  The only significant deficit here is in price, with the pretender ringing in at half the amount of the real iPad’s $600 retail.  And by making subtle variations in execution here and there, Teso -- and a whole host of similar tablet clones -- is able to eschew intellectual property infringement charges.

The Many Faces of Facebook

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Image Courtesy of Sean MacEntee at Flickr.com

Even more exemplary of our times than individual companies knocking off Big Idea products one by one is the strategy used by leviathans like Apple, Google, and Facebook. In its attempt to be a one stop go-to destination for everything digital, Facebook in particular has rolled out a number of functions that are suspiciously similar to extant applications. FB’s much lauded “share” function, for instance, was a fairly blatant translation of Digg’s similar “Digg This” option, while its “like” option - for some a symbol for the whole company - was more or less lifted from the sharing platform FriendFeed (which Facebook shrewdly purchased). Over the years, Zuckerberg and co. have likewise stirred its own recipes for Snapchat, Quora, and even Instagram into the pot.

Not many cases pulled from the various tiers of mimicry above have resulted in legal action, even as top dogs from various enterprises wag their finger over intellectual property issues. In part this may be because soft piracy is practiced by so many major players that such actions would be unwise hypocrisy. There’s also the fact that the kinds of basic ideas patented by Apple, for instance, are patently ridiculous to claim ownership to. But the point not to be missed is that this technological game of tit for tat writ large is leading to wider choice, and therefore competition in a field where monopolization looms large. While giants like Facebook or Google may lose a few potential dollars here and there, the fast and loose play of ideas ultimately seems to benefit consumers.

Camille McClane is a writer, researcher and editor, who frequently blogs about about web hosting and social media. Her favorite subject to focus on is emerging technology trends and its overall effect within business expansion and relations. She hopes the readers of WalkerSands.com enjoy this article as much as she enjoyed writing it.