WWDC '14: Innovation or Imitation?

Apple announced a bunch of useful improvements for the new versions of OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 at WWDC yesterday, but not for the first time, the tech giants also seemed to have ‘borrowed’ a few features from existing apps and platforms.

iOS 7 had already been criticised by the Android-faithful for ‘copying’ Notification Center, and even the iCloud Keychain feature from OS X Mavericks offered very similar functionality to premium Mac app, 1Password.

In light of the improvements Apple made to iMessage, Spotlight in OS X and the introduction of iCloud Drive, they seem to be carrying on that trend.

The War Of The Messaging Apps

As well as introducing support for third-party keyboards across iOS -- which happens to be an existing feature on Android -- iMessage for iOS 8 seems to have been heavily inspired by a couple of existing mainstream apps: WhatsApp & SnapChat.

In very similar fashion to WhatsApp, iMessage on iOS 8 will allow users to insert audio, video and location information in to conversations. WhatsApp's CEO Jan Koum clearly wasn't happy about that, writing on Twitter:

It doesn't stop there either. 'Self-destructing' attachments are another feature clearly inspired by SnapChat, although they simply responded with: "It's exciting to see other companies begin to embrace deletion by default".

Other new features include the ability to listen & respond to audio messages from the lock screen, as well as interactive notifications that allow you take action without actually needing to launch the app.

A More Visual OS X Spotlight

The new Spotlight on OS X Yosemite features a more visual UI, with the search field now taking a central position on the screen, as opposed to the familiar menubar drop-down from Mavericks. Among other features, Spotlight now integrates with Apple Maps, can display movies being shown in local theatres and even links directly to Wikipedia articles.

Its UI does have a certain resemblance to another Mac app, Alfred, although it doesn't offer quite the same level of functionality that power users look for in a productivity tool -- an area where Alfred excels.

iCloud Drive: $0.99 for 20GB

It's been a long time coming, but Apple finally announced a direct competitor to Dropbox & Google Drive with iCloud Drive; a file system for storing your documents in the Cloud which is (surprisingly) compatible with Windows 8, too.

20 GB of storage will cost just $0.99 per month, while 200 GB will cost $3.99 per month.

Given that the iWork suite of apps were also given web-based versions at last year's WWDC, Apple seem to be going head-to-head with Google Drive & Docs.

Final Thoughts

Apple has historically done well to refine existing technologies, even if they are inspired from other companies. With so many people complaining that they're playing "catch-up" though, it begs the question: can their improvements be classed as innovatiation or imitation?

It's almost inevitable that Apple will overlap with existing technologies as they improve upon their own products & services, but as a developer, how do you ensure that this doesn't affect your product?

We're looking forward to your thoughts below!

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