There’s something to be said for the entertainment factor of well-known bloggers going for each other’s throats. It’s almost like watching Morgan Freeman and God arm-wrestle – it’s hard to know who to root for. We were treated to this spectacle earlier this year after The New York Times’ Nick Bilton posted an incendiary article about Path and the way it accessed the iPhone’s Address Book. Thousands of words were put to text fields and published as writers came out of the woodwork to support or decry Bilton’s post.
A few scattered posts aside, the rest of the year has been relatively civil. Until yesterday, when HP introduced the Spectre One all-in-one desktop, which looks suspiciously similar to Apple’s iMac. The Verge covered the product’s announcement but didn’t mention its similarity to Apple’s design, prompting Instapaper creator Marco Arment and Daring Fireball celeb blogger John Gruber to question and postulate about The Verge’s policy on product announcements.
From Gruber: “I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous [titlecase removed]. The extent to which other companies are shamelessly copying Apple’s hardware designs, or the contortions the ‘neutral’ tech press will twist itself into to avoid calling a spade a spade.”
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the Spectre One – and its keyboard and trackpad, specifically – looks a lot like the iMac. Even the main differentiator, the monitor’s stand, looks like it was “inspired” by a mixture of the iMac and the MacBook Air. HP can, and should, do better. But would any customer mistake the Spectre One for the iMac? Probably not.
And, as The Next Web points out in its post about the two computers, HP isn’t the first company to “borrow” from the Apple design playbook. DoubleTwist designer Sebastiaan De With illustrates this point with before and after shots of how the MacBook Air changed Windows laptop designs.
So, yes, the Spectre One does look remarkably similar to the iMac. Many of the laptops that have been announced or released, since the MacBook Air became the MacBook of choice in 2010, look like Apple’s laptop, and those that don’t often look “less than stellar”. The same could be said for smartphones, which are often – rightly or wrongly – compared to the iPhone. It’s gotten to the point where copying Apple is to be expected.
Eventually, pointing out that a laptop or smartphone looks like an Apple product (or a poor imitation of an Apple product) becomes tiresome. Ugh. Look at that car – it has four wheels, just like the Model T. Lame.
Readers would quickly tire of being dragged through the same schpeel over and over. As Pinterest continues to influence Web design, should a reporter be expected to tack on “Pinterest clone” or “Pinterest-inspired” every time they cover any image or content -related startup? I hope not.
Sarah has one over-arching rule for what we write at PandoDaily: “don’t fuck the readers.” The PandoTicker was developed so we wouldn’t waste our readers’ time regurgitating the same funding announcements and press releases as other sites. It is our job to inform (and, to an extent, entertain) but that doesn’t mean that we should treat the reader like a dolt. You know if something looks like an Apple product or a Pinterest rip-off, and you don’t need us to tell you that.
It would appear that The Verge has a similar policy. “We of course mention this kind of thing all the time in our writing,” Joshua Topolsky, the site’s editor in chief, said in his response to Arment and Gruber. “Like here, and here, for instance — in reviews especially, where that kind of critique is actually useful.” Instead of loading every post with “this looks like an Apple product!” The Verge staff makes note of the similarity when it truly matters.
One has to wonder how people will react if some of the rumors – a bigger screen, 4G LTE capabilities, smaller connector – about the new iPhone prove to be true tomorrow. Will The Verge be expected to compare the new iPhone to the Evo 4G, one of the first behemoth smartphones, or the HTC Thunderbolt, one of the first US smartphones to operate on a 4G LTE network? Time will tell, but I’m willing to bet that the answer is “no.” As Topolsky says:
This industry is full of theft, both large and small. I could tell you that Apple lifted its laptop keyboard designs from Sony, and its iOS notifications from Android and… aw, but you don’t want to go down that path. Do you? And you certainly don’t need me to mention it every time I cover their products, right?
Both sides have a point. Ultimately, the issue becomes one of intention. The Verge aims to be a news site that covers everything in the tech and gadget world, and respects its readers enough to trust that they can spot an Apple copy when they see one. Marco Arment and John Gruber aren’t in the news business – they are, essentially, columnists. People read them because they want to hear their take on what’s happening in the industry, and likely view the world through a similar lens.
Goddamn if it doesn’t look like an iMac though.