10 Products That May Have Inspired Apple

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that is true, Apple certainly likes to make other people feel good. According to various sources, many of Apple’s products may use ideas that were originally developed somewhere else.

Much of the time, Apple considerably improved on the original design. In other cases, Steve Jobs recognized the commercial potential of an idea which those who had developed it failed to fully grasp.

Like all tech giants, when Apple finds a new technology that it requires, it often buys the company that developed it. On other occasions, Apple has simply used the technology first and then payed for it later - usually after an expensive lawsuit.

One way or another,, Apple invariably gets access to the technology it needs to keep its customers satisfied.

Of course, Apple isn’t the only company that indulges in peeking at the work of others. Google, Microsoft, and Samsung have all adapted other companies’ quality ideas into features for their products. The result is a field of competitive products that share good basic fundamentals, and distinguish themselves with new innovations (that will likely be borrowed in the next development cycle).

Altogether, perhaps this proves that in business it's not who develops an idea that benefits the most, it is the one who knows what to do with it. The late Steve Jobs was never afraid to admit that he liked to borrow from the best, and was quoted as saying “we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas”. Judging by Apple’s recent successes, it would appear they’re doing something right.

Here are 10 examples of ideas, designs, and products that inspired the iconic Apple products you use today.

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11 #10 BBM May Have Inspired iMessage Functions

With iOS5, Apple included a new messaging system called iMessage. The name didn’t win any points for originality, and neither would the features it provided. iMessage was remarkably similar to BBM, sharing a number of features, including notifications when someone is writing a new message, message-read and message-received receipts, and being able to send unlimited messages outside the owner’s monthly text message limit.

10 #9 Arthur OS, UNIX, LINUX May Have Inspired the Dock

Many believe that Apple was the first to develop the idea of the Dock, the simple bar that is used to launch and manage applications. However, many other operating systems incorporated the idea of the Dock long before Apple. Arthur OS, released in 1987, included a Dock. UNIX, LINUX and OmegaOS also all had the Dock before Apple used it.

9 #8 The iPod Was Inspired By Kane Kramer's Design

Since the Apple iPod entered the market in 2001, more than 300  million of the devices have been sold. Much of the success is due to the look of the media player. However, the company was not the first to think up the device. In 1979, a Briton by the name of Kane Kramer invented a device he called an IXI. The device, which looks remarkably like a iPod, was only able to store 3.5 minutes of music on the chip, though Kramer believed that over time its capacity would improve. The design that he created featured a central button used to scroll through music on the rectangular display screen. Kramer took out a patent for the device and established a company to develop the concept. In 1988 he was unable to raise £60,000 that he needed to renew the patents for the device globally and the technology become up for grabs. Apple has publicly admitted that they borrowed from Kramer’s work, and paid him a consultancy fee for testifying at a legal trial against another company suing them over the design.

8 #7 The iOS6 Clock Looked Like the Swiss National Railway's

It’s nice looking, but one has to wonder if $21 million isn’t too steep of a price to pay for the design of a clock app. First designed in 1944 by Hans Hilfiker, the look of the Swiss National Railway clock is iconic – and owned entirely by the rail company. When Apple used the aesthetic for its iOS6 clock app in 2012, SNR spoke up, demanding payment. Apple ended up forking over $21 million, or about 10 cents for each of the 210 million iOS 6 devices that had been sold.

7 #6 The iPad Was Preceded by the MS Tablet and Fujitsu iPad

To date apple has sold 170 million iPads. Its a massive achievement which owes some of its success to other companies work. Microsoft was selling the MS Tablet PC as early as 2002. And Fujitsu actually sold a product that they called the iPad. Fujitsu sued Apple over the disputed name but the claim was complicated by the fact that a third company called Mag-Tek had already registered a keypad entry tool called IPAD. This slowed down Fujitsu’s original patent application, which gave Apple the window it needed to swoop in and grab the name.

6 #5 Apple Licensed the Click Wheel User Interface From Creative

When you think of the classic iPod, one of the features that likely stands out most is the clickwheel used to navigate the device. However, the user interface for this browsing device was actually developed by Creative, and used in devices like its Nomad II MP3 player. Apple was later sued by Creative for infringing on its patent. The two companies eventually settled the matter, with Apple paying Creative $100 million to licence the patent.

5 #4 iTunes From SoundJam

iTunes was in large part based on SoundJam, which was created by Jeff Robin and Bill Kincaid. SoundJam was a Mac OS compatible MP3 player that was first released in 1998. Looking to perfect the computer jukebox software experience, Apple purchased the company in 2000 and then further developed the software into iTunes 1.0. Since then, iTunes has developed into the monolithic music, video, and app service it is today. While this is an example of a product they purchased, it is another example of Apple using another company’s idea as a launching point.

4 #3 iOS 7 Card Multitasking From Palm

One of Apples most obvious “borrows” is the card multitasking design. iOS7 users can swipe through miniaturized screens of their active applications, making navigating many windows a breeze. It’s similar in functionality to the Palm Pre, the first phone to display apps as cards which could be sorted through from left to right. The design was solid, so Apple didn't make many changes when they incorporated the idea into iOS.

3 #2 iPhone Touchscreen Technology From Multitouch

One of the biggest, most exciting features of the original iPhone was the way it used a touchscreen interface to combine iPod, phone, and mobile computer into a single sleek package. Of course, touchscreens have been around for a lot longer than the iPhone, and most of the features in the iPhone touch technology were bought or inspired by existing products. Capacitive touch screen technology, the kind used in the iPhone, was first developed in the 1960's, and the multi touch interface used in Apple products was the work of FingerWorks, which was bought by Apple in 2005.  The pinch to zoom feature may have been inspired by DiamondTouch, which Apple engineers first viewed in 2003.

2 #1 GUI From Xerox

When Steve Jobs was 24 years old, he was given the opportunity to visit the XEROX Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). While there, he was shown three new types of technology. He would later recall he was so impressed by one of the them - the Graphical User Interface (GUI) – that he couldn't even remember what the other two were. The MacIntosh released in 1984 would be the first commercially successful computer to use a GUI. XEROX later sued Apple, whilst Apple was in the midst of court case of its own, suing Microsoft for copying “their” GUI interface. Both lawsuits were dismissed.

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