noted in passing

Where Kirby Ferguson gets it wrong

I had hoped this would be more about remix culture but it turned out to be one more “Apple is doing it wrong” screed. The difference as I see it is that in the folk song examples, he clearly shows the before and after, where Dylan took his idea from and what he did with it. He doesn’t show any provenance for the iOS Slide to Unlock gesture, while ridiculing the patent, nor does he mention the obvious – that no alternative has yet emerged. Here are some ideas:
One could

  • press and hold a specific section of the screen for a few seconds or
  • press/tap in a user-defined pattern or
  • use key press combinations with the volume or part switch.

Those may not be any good but I’m not a trained industrial designer nor did I spend a lot of time on them. But instead we fixate on Slide to Unlock. There is no one right answer.

The Picasso quote about artists stealing is misused here: by stealing, he means to make it your own, to transform it into something that looks like you did it yourself.

You steal the idea of a self-propelled wagon – an automobile – but not the implementation. Henry Ford didn’t make the first car, after all, but who remembers who did?

You steal the idea of a windows/icons/mouse pointer interface but you make it look original. No one would confuse the Xerox Star with a Macintosh though they would see obvious similarities. A Model T and whatever Ford makes now have similarities but would a buyer confuse them?

That’s what’s missing in the Android vs iOS distraction. Steve Jobs wasn’t angry at Android as a smartphone that offered the same basic functionality: it was the similarity in the implementation that he resented. I don’t think anyone cared when the first Android phones looked like Blackberries.

Think about it: the Samsung products look a lot like the iOS products – Google warned Samsung about that – but that’s secondary. What should be worrisome is how that suggests there are no alternative ideas, that the shiny glass slab is the Platonic deal. Does Android really want to concede that?