A new born child is the ultimate learning machine, it watches and then imitates. Since our species took that first step in the upright position each subsequent generation has gained knowledge thanks to the information that was already there the second we took our first breathe. We took the great ideas that already existed and improved on them.
Nokia has been accused of blatantly copying the iPhone when in fact all the commotion is about a finger gesture. Research into touch based technology has been going on at Nokia for close to a decade now, they even had a touch screen phone in 2003 called the 7700 that never made it to market; the 7710 was released instead in 2004. They recognized it wasn’t mature so they backed away from the concept, until now.
What separates the iPhone from every phone on the market is not the feature list, but the overall integration and presentation of data to the user; the experience. Would you say Ferrari is copying Ford for making a car with 4 wheels manipulated by a person sitting behind another round disk that controls the movement of the front tires? Absolutely not, but the experience of driving an early 90’s Ford Taurus will never be that of a Ferrari Enzo or BMW M5.
When Anssi got on stage and said “If there is something good in the world we copy with pride,” he was clam and did not hesitate. He knew that this industry is based on people stealing other people’s ideas, but tweaking them in an attempt to improve the overall experience and advance that pool of knowledge from which future generations will build on. I have no doubt in my mind that Nokia engineers are taking apart the iPhone in the lab right now and I have equal, if not more, confidence that Apple studied Nokia very closely before entering the mobile phone space.
I’m not going to defend Nokia or bash Apple, that would derail the conclusion I’m trying to make here, which is people learn from other people and adopt their behaviors in order to learn and maybe, just maybe, create something new. At the end of the day when company A creates product Y then company B creates product Z that does exactly what product Y does, but a little bit better, than company A learns a lesson and goes on a mission to further improve themselves. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the iPhone is the best thing to happen to the telecommunications industry in a long time.
It made Americans realize that spending money on a phone isn’t a bad thing, it made companies realize that pretty interfaces are possible and it made the world want a device that can do more than just make phone calls and send text messages. For that alone I have to thank Apple.
If you try and take my Nokia N95 away however, I will beat you senseless. I promise.