Saturday, 28 February 2009

Apple copies Google and fails, Amazon copies Apple and succeeds

What I love about Apple is the way in which the consistently innovate. They're always coming up with new ideas, and they always do things their own way. Apple doesn't copy others - others copy Apple... Until this week, that is.

Perusing the Safari 4 Beta gave me an uneasy feeling that this kind of product might be what we have to look forward to without Jobs at the helm. People have said that it shows signs that Google's Chrome browser has got Apple rattled, and, reluctantly, I'd have to agree.

The best things about Chrome are its smart choice in adopting Apple's WebKit, its super-fast JavaScript engine, and its robust multi-threaded architecture. The worst thing about it is, once again, it illustrates Google's complete lack of visual sophistication. Like every Google product, the UI of Chrome is very ugly.

What a travesty then, that Apple should see fit to copy so many aspects of Chrome's UI in the new version of Safari - an app previously noted for its influential, clean looks. Gone are clever innovations like the progress bar integrated with the URL field, and the inverted tabs. Instead, we have the cluttered, confused messiness of tabs integrated with the title bar, which commits three key UI gaffs:
  • Confuses two functions: dragging the entire window, vs moving the tabs
  • Draggable handle looks more like a window re-sizing tools
  • Inconsistent with every other window in Mac OS X!
This seems unequivocally a retrograde step, and irony of ironies, from this point on, Apple, the company that has been the inspiration and driving force behind WebKit, will be perceived as following Google's lead in browsers.

The other piece of surprising news this week is what a great job Amazon appears to have done with the Kindle 2. Certainly, it picks up on many design cues from Apple - the uncluttered white front, the metallic rear panel, the integrated wireless store, and the stylish packaging. But unlike Apple's hapless competitors in other sectors, some of Apple's magic does seem to have rubbed off on this product. I think that Amazon may have a huge hit on their hands, and Jobs may rue the day that he (rather ignorantly) claimed that no one reads any more.


  1. Couldn't disagree with you more. Love the new tabs. Uses less screen space. More intuitive.

    Do miss the progress bar. Hope it makes it back to the final version.

  2. Agree to disagree.