Yesterday in San Francisco (while Brits were all abed), Apple had its yearly Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), which in the past has been where it unveiled the iPhone, iPad et al.
As expected, there were no shiny new products for fanboys to fawn over, but there was a raft of new app hubs and software innovations, many of which looked suspiciously familiar. But then again, as the late company founder Steve Jobs said: ‘Picasso had a saying — "good artists copy; great artists steal" — and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.’
Meanwhile, Apple also cracked the top five of the Fortune 500 yesterday, which ranks companies annually by sales, due to its mega revenues of $170.9bn (£102bn) in its 2013 fiscal year. Hewlett Packard was the next technology company, ahead of Google and Microsoft, but still lagging well below Apple at 17.
Here are all the companies you’d need to nab elements from if you wanted to recreate the even bigger and badder Apple:
1. Dropbox (iCloud Drive)
The tech giant unveiled iCloud Drive, which lets you share and access files online – basically Dropbox. The service gives you 5GB free, more than Dropbox’s 2GB, but less than Google Drive’s 15GB, Box’s 10GB and Microsoft One Drive’s 7GB. It also has a photo sharing and storage feature that looks pretty similar to Dropbox’s Carousel app. Incidentally, Jobs tried and failed to buy the file-sharing company back in 2009 – if at first you don’t succeed…
2. Whatsapp (iMessage)
Add-ons to Apple’s iMessage app quite obviously draw on Whatsapp, bought by Facebook earlier this year for $19bn. These include group chats and tap-to-talk voice and video messages.
Whatsapp chief exec Jan Koum was none too happy:
very flattering to see Apple "borrow" numerous WhatsApp features into iMessage in iOS 8 #innovation— jan koum (@jankoum) June 2, 2014
3. Skype (Handoff)
Apple users can now make and answer iPhone calls on their Mac and iPad, much like Skype. The company put its $3bn acquisition of Beats to work by calling Dr Dre live on stage – would’ve made a bit of a change for developers used to nerding out about code.
However, more exciting than the copy-cat features is that all devices are getting linked up: as well as calls, you can send and receive texts, while a feature called Handoff lets you switch from, say, Mac to iPhone, and continue working (on its own Office-esque programs of course) or browsing on Safari.
4. SwiftKey (QuickType)
Apple’s new predictive keyboard, QuickType, is uncannily similar to SwiftKey, an app that iOS users haven’t been able to download – until now. The Cupertino-based company made a big song and dance of how it is opening up its operating system – for example, allowing users to download third-party keyboard apps and letting third-party developers use its fingerprint recognition feature as a password. Conveniently, it’s doing so only after it figured out how to make its own versions.
5. Google (iOS 8 & HomeKit)
Speaking of operating systems, chief exec Tim Cook also showed off its latest iteration, iOS 8. On top of the aforementioned additional features, iOS is taking on Google’s Android (and Microsoft Windows) by making everything streamlined and swipe-able – for example, letting you reply to messages directly from notifications rather than having to go into an app.
The company also unveiled HomeKit, a previously-leaked move into ‘smart homes’ that will integrate third-party apps, so users can lock doors and switch off lights from their iPhone. Conspicuously absent was any mention of Nest, the maker of ‘smart’ thermostats and smoke alarms co-founded by the guy who designed the iPod and bought by Google earlier this year for $3.2bn.
6. Samsung (HealthKit)
In the smartphone and tablet markets, the bitter Apple-Samsung rivalry, complete with exhausting patent wars, needs no introduction. However, wearable tech could well be where the next battlelines are drawn, after Apple introduced HealthKit.
Like HomeKit, it integrates third party apps – in this case, blood pressure and heart rate monitoring and the like. An iWatch has been rumoured to be in the works for ages, and with Samsung recently introducing a watch with heartrate monitoring, wearing our heart on our sleeve could be the scene of the next bloody tech standoff (and a whole load of potentially terrifying privacy issues).
7. Spotify (Beats)
Having bought Beats last week, Apple can now take on Spotify in the brave, not-so-new world of music streaming. Although, as MT pointed out, the company could have easily created its own streaming service, so was probably after the marketing talents of Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre, who worked out how to sell sub-par headphones for $300+.