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Somewhat related: You know how we in the startup world are constantly chanting, "It's the execution that matters, not the idea?" Well, many of the discussions around Apple seem to boil down to one person saying that Apple copied/stole the idea, or the idea was inevitable, and the other person saying "Yeah, but Apple pulled off he execution."

To the extent that all of Apple's ideas in GUIs, mobile devices, music retailing, physical stores, and so on are all "obvious" or "inevitable," Apple's success has been in executing on those ideas with overwhelming competence.

It may sound banal to say that all Apple does is execute competently. But experience with startups shows that executing competently with new products and creating new markets is heinously difficult. And without that execution, progress happens glacially if at all.

It's more subtle than that. Jobs had a preternatural ability to determine when a technology was sufficiently mature and when people were ready to accept a well-executed solution. Some would argue, for example, that Newton was executed well (but people weren't ready for it).

I would imagine a lot of startups find themselves in a situation where people simply aren't ready for the solution that is brought to the table.

I wouldn't call it preternatural - they've had a few flops which have seemingly been conveniently forgotten by people. Give the man his due, but let's not imply that he's some sort of force of nature.

Newton was not only premature, it didn't fit any useful form factor (too small for a tablet, too big for a pocket device) and it didn't do anything necessary. An iPod plays music and an iPhone is a phone.

Additionally, the state of Newton's handwriting recognition was immature.

And it likely still is immature for the mass market, all these years later.

Notice that handwriting recognition was not part of ipod/iphone/ipad/ios. Rather than continuing down that path, Apple went in a different direction altogether.

Or, he simply had enough money and influence to advertise and market his way to success, this time around.

I'd imagine the iPad got far, far more publicity than the Newton in its day.

The guy talking about how Apple copied/stole the idea is probably reacting negatively because while 'execution' is important, it's nice to see 'idea' too. It can rankle if someone else is successful purely on the taking of your ideas, without ever generating any truly new ideas of their own.

(which is not to say Apple has never had an original idea in their life)

Exactly. Apple's genius is in making technology usable, not just making technology.

usable for who? I cannot image something more usable than a simple e17 + xterm on a Debian to develop my Perl programs.. so I think your sentence must be refined, don't you?

C'mon now.

I think you are being intentionally dense. We all know what is meant by "making technology usable" is "making technology usable - for muggles" ;)

"Muggles"? Please. I've been using Unixes since I was ten years old, and I've steadily replaced all of my user-facing Linux machines with Macs (typing this from my Air, at the moment).

Apple's triumph has been in making technology less aggravating. And that's something that most people can readily appreciate.

You're right that the execution, which involves taking an idea thru the difficulty of solving all of its problems to fruition is what really matters.

However, the problem is that after Apple does this, and then everyone and their dog copies it, a few years later, people pretend like it wasn't Apple who actually had the idea, developed it, solved all the problems and then brought it to market!

Its as if, because there's an android phone on the shelf, there was nothing new in the iPhone.

This is some form of post hoc ergo proctor hoc history!

I agree that Apple develops and polishes ideas to an impeccable degree. But to say that Apple had original ideas is grossly overstating the truth.

Laptops existed before Powerbooks. MP3 players existed before the iPod. Smartphones (remember Handspring?) existed before the iPhone. In fact, one could argue that Apple is amongst the last into a market for a good reason: being last allows you to learn from the mistakes of others and see which approaches are dead-ends.

The early bird might get the worm, but its the second mouse that gets the cheese.

They exist in the same embrace-and-extend industry as every other technology company. It's just as irritating that so many people believe Apple invented the MP3 player.

No, most people don't even know what an MP3 player is. The only people I hear that from these days are nerds. Everyone else says iPod. The same way we say 'kleenex'.

Replace MP3 player with any of these: all modern desktop metaphors, the smartphone, the concept of an app store. I'm sure I'm missing some.

You could even go with the automobile, the assembly line, the light bulb, the telephone, and any number of frequently misattributed inventions and innovations if you need to move outside modern technology to see the point.

There is a good argument to be made that Google is a more influential company than Apple, but this article doesn't present it. Once you take away the unsubstantiated (at least in the article) fluff, such as "Google preaches openness because it benefits the company", here are Google's concrete accomplishments, according to the article:

1) Their core technology, Google search.

2) The fact that they bought YouTube.

This isn't a very compelling summary of Google's concrete accomplishments, and I'm sure a much better one could be made. Even Google Docs is a better example of Google changing the way people communicate than "they bought YouTube". (YouTube itself is, of course, amazing, but they were established and very popular before Google, a fact that doesn't really fit the narrative as presented.)

The worst part of this article, however, is that it presents Apple's accomplishments as inevitable and Google's as miraculous, when you could just as easily argue the reverse. "Someone would inevitably have bought YouTube -- surely the fact that anybody can now share videos on the Internet is inevitable?" And the answer is, yes, someone would have, but the point is that Google did. In the same way, everybody can see, in hindsight, that the iTunes music store was inevitable, but Apple was the company to make it happen. Being first is only easy in retrospect.

I agree. Someone would've "eventually" improved on Excite, Yahoo, and AltaVista's search. Someone would've "eventually" purchased YouTube. The argue that the author uses against Apple applies equally or more-so to every point he makes about Google.

I just recently found out that Robin (the CEO of Baidu) was also working on algorithms similar to Pagerank. It changed my perception of Google as a brilliant once-in-a-lifetime flash of insight to much more "the idea was in the air" and these guys rocked the execution.

The inevitability argument can be made for YouTube, but I don't think it can be made for Google search. Remember, before the PageRank algorithm, people thought Internet search was a dead end. The leading search providers were continuing to push pure boolean queries; an approach that was quickly becoming unsustainable under the mass of spam that was starting to exploit text-relevance metrics.

Google's use of link-based popularity metrics was truly revolutionary, in that it wasn't apparent by simply extrapolating existing trends in Internet search engines.

>The inevitability argument can be made for YouTube, but I don't think it can be made for Google search.

I think it can. Around the time that PageRank was published, Jon Kleinberg also published the HITS (hubs & authorities) algorithm. There are some key differences in the way they work, and Page & Brin smartly went on to found Google around PageRank, but it was becoming evident in that period that hyperlink-based ranking was a smart thing to do.

Exactly. The author's argument with "It would happen anyway" can directly be applied to Google, too.

I'd throw in Gmail too.

Article summary: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

"Article summary: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

Wow, I think your comment is a perfect illustration of one of the author's points and the reason he had to speak up in the face of people going too far in extolling Apple's virtues.

Apple makes fantastic products, but to compare any of them or even the aggregate of them (and I'm including the Apple II and the original Mac in this, both of which I think are actually bigger game changers than anything 1997+) to any single thing in the list you just rattled off is insanity.

Apple has changed the world of industrial design, sure, and they make wonderful products, but none of that is a real sweeping history-altering game changer.

Let's recognize the great 10 year run they've been on, but let's not get crazy about it.

You should watch Life of Brian some time:


I agree though that Google has more impact than Apple. Every student, every high schooler or college student, professor, scientist etc around the world use Google to get access to knowledge, learn and get their job done. I live in Peru where every student use google to get knowledge, I haven't seen anyone with an idevice anywhere here.

I think the service Google has done to humanity by making information accessible to all and that easily is hard to match by any company today on earth. Apple makes pretty devices, and accelerated the smartphone revolution (which was already en marche with blackberry as the article say), but on the whole, Google reached and helped (and keep doing so today) much more people than Apple ever has. Not to mention the billions of dollars Google give to publishers from India to Peru helping them make a living, not to mention Android, youtube, blogger etc.

So yes, Google has changed the world much more than Apple in my opinion and experience here and everywhere I've been.

You write as if Google invented web search. They made it dramatically better. But was it so much better that it changed the world? I am certain it was so much better that they killed off their competition, but somehow I don't think they were so much better that students in Peru wouldn't be using Web Search if Google hadn't come along.

Yes, Web Search was pretty useless before Google, I was there so I can remember (and I guess you probably were there too).

I live in Peru where every student use google to get knowledge,

Sure, but if Google wasn't around they would probably be using Yahoo or AltaVista to get knowledge.

Every one of those people using Google are doing so on a system running a graphical user interface that Apple invented. In fact, it was Apple that invented the personal computer. Full stop.

You never heard about Xerox did you?

Well the question is "is the GUI that people are using today closer to the PARC GUI or closer to the Mac/Lisa GUI?"

The Apple and Lisa groups were unquestionably influenced by PARC, but a lot of the innovations that are used in today's GUIs come from Apple: http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&s...

Although, important to note that while Xerox invented GUIs, they were about to trash the project before Apple stepped in and nurtured it. Speculation about what would have happened if they didn't do this is mostly meaningless, but disregarding the promulgation and popularization of GUIs in lieu of crediting only their original inventor is totally unfair.

Actually, Xerox invented some important technologies, such as the mouse and the idea of a windowed interface, but this was not the GUI. That was invented by Apple. The xerox interface was more akin to emacs multi-document mode, there was no desktop metaphor, no file/folders organization, no trash can, the menubar was a very different conceptualization, etc.

Xerox categorically did not invent the mouse. Doug Engelbart invented the mouse in the mid-to-late 1960s. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfIgzSoTMOs for what is described as "The Mother of All Demos". As to the GUI, again PARC then Apple innovated on the original ideas of others. Ivan Sutherland is credited ad really being the first to develop the notion of the "GUI" - again in the late 60s - with Sketchpad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOZqRJzE8xg. The Xerox interface was in fact essentially Smalltalk http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smalltalk and http://homepage3.nifty.com/old_apple_world/photo/SmallTalk21...

I'll admit at the time I posted my comment, I wasn't particularly well versed in the history of computing. Thanks for the links, they are insightful.

I didn't say Apple invented the mouse or the idea of a winding UI, I said Apple invented the GUI and the personal computer.

But it was Microsoft that revolutionized it.

Yeah Microsoft definitely revolutionized graphical interfaces... Come on! Microsoft never revolutionized anything!

The Kinect?

But all those innovations were inevitable! So, you know, the Romans surely don't deserve any credit.

Because some people might not know the movie and/or get the reference, it is from The Life of Brian, a hilarious comedy from Monty Python. The scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExWfh6sGyso

Right on.

Comparing Apple to Google is not very interesting to someone who has watched Apple's entire historical arc, not just the past 5 years.

I actually agree to the part where it says that Apple has not been the different change-maker.

A very large part of the world population is still unaffected by Apple Products. MS for that instance has a much larger impact on the world of personal computing.

Apple did produce some incredibly cool gadgets, but that was about it. iPods and iTunes was probably insanely popular in US (and Europe), just like iPhones and iPads are today - but Microsoft has definitely penetrated at much larger depth and positively (and in some ways, negatively) affected a lot of them. And yes, I know the article is about last 10 years - but even in these 10 years Windows XP was (and in a large population, it still is) THE operating system to have; Office (2003 and 2007) are still used in every damn office.

Aesthetics - yes, Apple products has a huge impact and also to the build quality expectations from hand held devices. But it failed miserably in providing a solution that could be used by masses (It actually focused on a niche clientele, like the ones here). Nokia on the other hand provided devices to the masses - affordable and with insanely awesome build quality. They were not popular in US, but in Asia - buying a non-Nokia phone was considered stupid at one time.

And I am not a MS Fanboi; I am a Google Fanboi. Google is a verb now - Gmail is analogous to mail for most of my friends; youtube is the place we go to listen to music. Maps to get directions, Picasa for uploading pictures and Docs for collaborating on content. I am typing this from using Chromium browser and I had downloaded some libraries from Google Code to use in my Course Project. So the Roman analogy goes for Google, not Apple.

[Any particular reason for downvote(s)?]

Someone here correctly commented how this post showed Reddit level discussion and team based upmanship. You cannot trace the level of influence in a one-dimensional number line, of any two successful people or companies. Who has had more influence, Facebook, Twitter or even Friendster? pg or avc? Such questions are stupid, just like Erdos-Bacon numbers. They are good for friendly banter, but don't have any real meaning.

I replied to nirvana about how the word inventing does not mean anything. And yet he and you kept on debating on minutiae. Many techie people from India look up to MS and Google as opposed to say Apple or Amazon, partly because their influence is more apparent, so I understand your affinity for them. But attributing invention or success to something which can be attributed to random events and network effects, is a bit off by standards here.

I did not down vote anyone, just making a general comment. Things are never so black and white, grab a good book, read some scientific (non-CS) papers, you will probably have a broader perspective. I would recommend starting with the massive bibliography at the back of The Black Swan (Taleb).

You are giving the wrong summary. A better summary would be: Napster gave us wine, Apple created a nice looking bottle for it. But without bottle there would still be wine.

The point is that none of what Apple brought about in the last decade was "significant" in the same way that sanitation, ..., public health are. They primarily brought combinations of things we were already doing in slick and usable packages. They produced a bunch of great products, no doubt, but I cringe whenever someone calls an iThing "revolutionary".

The GUI is a revolution from the command line. The personal computer is a revolution from the mini-computer and the mainframe. Apple invented both of those. The touch interface is revolutionary, compared to plastic buttons, and Apple invented that. I find it amazing that people can claim, with a straight face that Apple "combined things were were already doing in slick and usable packages" about things that did not exist before Apple invented them. Its like you hate Apple so much you have to rewrite history to make them less significant. There was no personal computer before the Apple I and Apple II. There were no GUIs before the Lisa. There was not touch UI before the iPhone. AT worst you could point to the crappy windows tablets of 2003 and say that the "iPad didn't invent the tablet market", but that's the same as saying google didn't invent the search engine... which, while true, completely ignores that page rank is a genuine innovation.

If you want to disagree with what I said, you need to make an actual argument. Simply providing links is an automatic failure, because you're expecting me to go hunting for a counter argument to the statements I made, and none of those links were written in rebuttal to them.

That being said, your links are not authoritative, nor do they even address what I said.

You can't make statements like X invented Y and then add earlier versions of Y weren't Y because they were not as good as X's implementation of Y.

That is very much like believing in Flying Spaghetti Monster. It's logically irrefutable, but sounds absurd.

[Edit: Spell]

You're knocking down a strawman. Your argument is that the guy who invented the internal combustion engine didn't actually invent it because the guy who invented the piston is the one who invented it.

Xerox is known to be the inventor of GUI. Apple made it popular. There is a difference.

It's very much like how Apple invented PC but MS revolutionized and captured the market. I am giving due credit to all parties; you are omitting/trivializing all the conceptualization that went into an earlier concept - the ones that Apple's products were based upon.

>Xerox is known to be the inventor of GUI.

This is a lie that you really shouldn't be perpetuating. This isn't a question of opinion, but of historical fact, an you are telling a falsehood. There's no debating it.

Recall that the context of this article is innovations over the last decade. Both the GUI and personal computers are 35+ years old (and neither were pioneered by Apple; Xerox invented the GUI, and other systems like the TRS-80 and Altair 8800 were on the market in the Apple I/II era). Even direct-manipulation touchscreen interfaces predate this decade; I remember ordering at Arby's using such a system in the 1990s.

I'm no Apple hater. I just want to keep an appropriate perspective. They've made some VERY good products, but over the last decade, their focus has been more on "putting together a complete product in a slick, well-made package" than on "making life-changing leaps". There's nothing wrong with that, but don't mistake it for something it's not.

The context of this article is denigrating Apple by misrepresenting, using falsehoods, its contributions to the computer industry. When you claim that "neither were pioneered by Apple" you tell an outright lie. The Apple I was on the market before the TRS-80, and the Altair 8800 was a kit that didn't even produce a complete computer, it was not a personal computer. Xerox did not invent the GUI.

The idea that an arby's touchscreen means Apple didn't invent anything with the touch UI is so dishonest that it boggles the mind that you could say it in public with a straight face, seriously. The only motivation for doing so is either that you're really uninformed about this stuff and are just repeating what you've heard from Apple haters, or you're an Apple hater.

Seriously. This is Hacker News. This is not uninformed barely-computer literate consumer news. If we can't be honest about the major contributors to computer science here, then the site is completely lost.

There's an unreasonable amount of emotionally charged language in your post. This is Hacker News, not "call people uninformed barely-computer literate consumers and haters because they don't share your viewpoint news". Make your arguments in a civil manner, please.


The Altair 8800 was a kit computer, which could also be ordered preassembled. The Apple I had a fully assembled circuit board, but still required assembly of other components. The TRS-80 and Apple II were both fully preassembled, and contemporary with each other. It's fair to say that Apple was an important player in the move toward personal computers, but I don't think it's fair to say they invented them.

AFAIK, Xerox was the first company to use an actual GUI, on the Alto (none of what Stanford did before would qualify as a "GUI", IMO.) Apple's Lisa was a big step forward for the GUI, adding things like window controls and menus. Again, Apple was an important player in the move to GUIs, and pioneered several specific GUI elements, but it's not fair to say they invented the GUI.

And, of course, both of these inventions are well over a decade old; when speaking about companies that "changed everything" between 2000 and 2010, they're not relevant.

Your references to "the touch UI" are confusing. I'm not aware of any product with that name. My best guess is that you're referring to some specific detail of iOS -- multitouch, perhaps? Without clarification, I don't really know how to respond to this particular point, or even if it needs responded to. Apple certainly put together a nice UI, and probably invented several specific conventions in doing so; I'm just not sure what in particular you think is revolutionary or needs to be acknowledged.

Parent and grandparent, take some deep breadths and relax. Please don't quibble. Then watch this rather insightful video titled 'Everything is a Remix' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wq5D43qAsVg

And pardon me, for coming off as arrogant, but I hate to see trivial fights here when you are missing the bigger picture.


It seems the writer here is wearing blinders; it's fine if you're not a proponent of Apple Inc. that's 100% your prerogative, but if you're going to cherrypick which points stick and which don't so that the only thing that's left are the ones that directly support whatever point, well sorry.

Google certainly changed the way we use the web/Internet. Apple brought more innovation to the the way we interact with computing devices. Both leveraged technology that existed prior to their existence, much as the Romans created from and improved on Greek and Egyptian technologies. We benefit from both, I really don't care to argue which was "best".

Making an argument for argument sake. Anyone with big erasers are always tempted to change history.

What is the purpose of the post other than conveying the author's (for lack of better word) dislike of Apple?

Oh come on! "Zappos did change how we buy shoes, so what?" really? No it didn't. Maybe for you in the USA but in Europe it didn't. But the iPod and iTunes store changed how we buy music in the whole world. See the difference? Changing something in the whole world is a way bigger challenge than just establishing a new shop with convenient shopping methods in the USA.

I'm sorry if this sounds like fanboism but you shouldn't underestimate the change and the hard work here. Apple is the most innovative company in the world and so it should get credit for that. Even if you don't buy Apple products you should be happy that Apple is pushing the bars for simplicity and innovative products!

Actually, I feel that the group that should get the most credit for changing how we buy music, worldwide, is Napster, for the remarkable idea that we can change how we buy music by not buying it.

Don't forget Bram Cohen for Bittorrent.

IMHO, "no individual has made as much of a difference" is clearly local to the thoughtspace defined by "what Jobs has meant to the world of technology", so refutations comparing Jobs to bin Laden should probably throw a compiler error.

And I suppose we'd eventually have music players and smartphones without Apple. But the schedule of their appearance, and the elegance of their demonstration of possibilities, seem pretty important to the shape of those eventualities. We can learn a lot figuring out why the Wright Brothers were the first to "just" figure out pitch and yaw -- or we can ignore them and focus on aerodynamics, knowing that all breakthroughs happen eventually.

I'm sad seeing HN fallen down to reddit level of trollfest between apple fanbois and apple haters. Off-topic, but it had to be said.

This is interesting. At first I thought I would disagree with the crux of the article when I read the title, but after reading it I became really convinced that he's actually right. The iPad really hasn't changed anything. It's convenient, but hardly necessary. Same for the iPhone. I think most of Apple's world-changing actually occurred in its first phase.

I'm going to be very interested in watching Apple's next ten years. One thing that I think Apple has always done better than everyone else is software, and as more and more computing power moves away from the desktop, software will become all the more important. I think Apple is going to become more and more software-centric, and it will be interesting to see whether it can stave off competition from licensed platforms when hardware becomes less relevant and margins start to decrease.

Isn't any evaluation of how a person or company affected to the world shaped by each individual's own value-system? By what criteria do you rank someone's achievement? Is it by the number of people affected ... longevity of their creations ... enlightenment to society? There's no one way to judge such a thing because it's all subjective. Users of Apple products are potentially more-biased towards the company that created their tools of choice ... just as a guy that hosts a search-engine podcast is probably more likely to extol the achievements of his favorite search company. A world away from those two corporate titans, I'm sure, if asked, a villager in Somalia that just received a shipment of food and vitamins probably thinks whomever facilitated those things has made the most profound impact on the world. In their case, whether Google or Apple ever existed, food in their stomach and vitamins to address malnourishment may have allowed them to live another day. How many iPads equate to extending a life?

My point is that everybody has their own perceptions of what's important in this world. For Peter Nowak, apparently it's Apple. For Jesse Brown, it's Google. And that's fine ... in order for anyone to ever exchange money for goods they need to value what that good can do for them over the money in their pocket.

People should value things differently, otherwise all trade would grind to a halt as everybody hoarded the exact same shit. Ultimately .... what people value is really irrelevant ... but trying to rank Apple over Google, or vice-versa seems somewhat pointless to me ... especially since both companies are still plugging away throwing new things into the world to see what flies.

Apparently everything Apple did was no big deal, since someone else would've done it if they hadn't, but somehow that line of reasoning doesn't apply to Google.

I think this article gets the nexus of failure wrong. Apple didn't change everything because, ultimately, the Apple idea didn't spread. I'm a big fan of Steve Jobs and how Apple has approached products but the fact is that it's pretty much just Apple. Beyond Cupertino there's the same players and the same issues you had before.

You can't change everything if everything refuses to change.

Apple's ideas did spread. Every android phone is an iPhone counterfeit.... it is a copy of the iPhone. Like the GUI, which Linux and Windows copied, Apple's ideas do spread... the problem is the people who steal them get away with the theft.

I believe you are a troll at this point, but it's hard to tell given how fanatical some Apple fans are in their historical revisionism. I would suggest you watch what Jobs himself has to say on the GUI.[1] And read some of the other links that have been presented to you, you have been factually wrong numerous times throughout this thread.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdrKWArr3XY

At least the pro-Apple point about phones seems very US centric. Or perhaps North America since this magazine is from Canada. Most people in my country do not lease phones. The phone and the data plan are separate. You can change your sim card to a competitor any day you feel like. Even your number stays the same.

I've been mystified at the "Apple changed the world of X" memes but perhaps many of those things weren't common or even known about in the Apple proponent's world before Apple made such a big number about them. But to someone else it might seem ludicrous to say that Apple created this or that. A difference of perspective.

I think their secret is that they suck less than the competition. There's that little extra effort in the design and execution that doesn't give you gray hairs quite so often. If you want to stretch it a bit, Apple could make expensive and yet well selling fine washing machines for example. Most of the time when I do the laundry, I curse the Swedish or Korean ui designers to the lowest hell.

The biggest problem I have is that Apple and Jobs have become synonymous, but who designed the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iMac, Powerbook, G4?

Oh yeah, Jonathan Ive. Damn.

it proven than the integration of hardware with software it's not an option, but a must. That all the Unix world philosophy can applied to the world of GUI users, just wrap on and glue in the usable way (TimeMachine do help you remember well? and what about Versions?) They better the world of the meaning generic desktop users. Hardcore hacker developers do not care about what they do

I really don't understand the need to denigrate Apple. It almost seems as this spawns from an instinctive respect for the significance that Apple, and Steve Jobs specifically, have actually had.

Apple invented the GUI (using some ideas they licensed from Xerox), as part of a project that Steve Jobs led. The NeXT cube inspired the web to some extent and made the first browser much easier to write. Apple invented the touch UI. Hell, just listing the significant inventions of Apple is almost embarrassing because any list is going to leave so many of them off.

I credit Google for inventing page rank and for nailing web advertising. I won't even debate whether that is more significant than what Apple has done in just the last decade because doing so implies that some sort of one-upmanship has any point at all.

But, what significant inventions can we credit to Microsoft? HP? Dell? Lenovo? Samsung? Sony? The cell networks?

Lets step out of the world of computers, where Apple is somehow a controversial figure, and look at the world of movies. Steve Jobs bought Pixar from George Lucas for $6M of his own money (got from selling Apple stock) in 1986. At the time Pixar was just an effects shop for Lucas, but Ed Catmull et. al. wanted to make a feature. Jobs nurtured that company, tried to get it to at least break even (so it wouldn't break him) doing cutting edge commercials in the 1990s, until they finally got a break and got a deal with Disney. Pixar changed movies forever.

And they were able to do it because Steve Jobs had a perspective that even George Lucas didn't have. Lucas knew Catmull et al wanted to do features, but he didn't think it was viable. Jobs did, and put up what, at the time, was a significant portion of his net worth. And he stuck thru it during a number of thin years. All credit to the people at Pixar who actually made the technology and the movies-- but also credit to Jobs for letting them do it, with minimal interference.

It's not that Apple changed everything, its that Steve Jobs did.

I think attempting to deny this man-- one of the few genuine capitalist heroes-- the credit he is due is doomed to failure. You can't deny it, and trying to only reflects on yourself.

"I really don't understand the need to denigrate Apple."

Me either, but I also don't really understand the need to sanctify them, and I don't see how anyone could read this article as a denigration of Apple unless they've already made them sacrosanct in their heads.

Also, I don't think your history of Pixar is really correct. Lucas sold Pixar pretty much solely because he needed the money because of his divorce. It isn't that he thought Pixar making features was not viable, it is that he thought Pixar making features in 1986 was not viable, which clearly it wasn't. What makes you think he would have been opposed to them making features once the world was ready for it? George Lucas, for better or for worse, is one of the biggest proponents of all-digital movie making. One could easily make the case that Pixar features with Lucas as the CEO would have suffered from his meddling in ways they didn't with Jobs as the CEO, but that is purely speculation.

The answer to your question is a quote from Lucas that I read in a hardback book covering the history of Pixar from around that time. He essentially said as much. Also, at that time, Industrial Light and Magic was a practical shop, they were not doing "digital filmmaking" and Lucas wasn't yet a proponent of digital filmmaking, as this really didn't exist yet. So, Pixar was very much an odd duck there, they didn't have shared backgrounds with the other groups and operate in a way that was difficult for the existing management to manage.

For the past 30 years I've been reading people denigrating Apple based on innumerable falsehoods and misrepresentations. Ever since the Apple II had competition, there have been fans of competing systems who felt the need to attack Apple, at that time, because it was the dominant system. During the windows era, because Windows fans felt vaguely insecure about the computer they were talked into by a salesman, and nowadays, by google fans because they want to believe that it is ok for google to rip off the iPhone and give away a counterfeit operating system. All of these people have both a motivation to denigrate Apple and, since they know that Apple is one of the few genuinely innovative companies in the industry, they end up having to make up stories to try and make Apple's innovations less significant than they are.

One of the ways people denigrate Apple is to pretend like there is really no difference in usability or performance of Apple products, while also claiming that they are more expensive (even when they aren't) and thus that anyone who buys them is obviously a victim of a Reality Distortion Field. For these people they cannot debate the purely pragmatic reasons that people choose Apple products, and so they attempt to portray Apple users as part of a cult, and often speak using religious terminology.

Ironically, it is those who talk about the "Reality Distortion Field" who have actually substituted ideology for pragmatism, otherwise they'd have pragmatic arguments to make.

...by google fans because they want to believe that it is ok for google to rip off the iPhone and give away a counterfeit operating system.

Here you go too far. You don't have to like Android, MeeGo, or any other non-Apple OS, but calling any of them counterfeit is highly inaccurate. Google isn't stealing Apple's software and repackaging it as their own.

In the form of the oft-used car analogy: you're accusing Hyundai of selling "counterfeit" cars because they slightly resemble a Jaguar.

Google is, in fact, stealing Apple's patented inventions and repackaging it as their own. Hence the sudden flare up in "patents are all bogus and a bad idea" propaganda.

Before the announcement of the iPhone the Android phones looked a whole lot like blackberries. Google didn't spend 7 years coming up with a multi-touch operating system, and the underlying technology. They spent one year copying what Apple did, right down to the icon placement, and then started licensing it to manufacturers who sell it to consumers who genuinely think they are getting iPhones.

I know google fans don't like to admit this, and so they claim that because in the past there was a touch screen somewhere, therefore, Apple didn't invent anything, but the standards of law are much higher and disprove this claim.

"They spent one year"

This, in and of itself, is a sign of how innovative Android is, under-the-hood. Google and everyone else saw the iPhone at the same time. Google took one year to have a baseline-credible iPhone competitor ready. Palm took two (and they had the advantage of starting over from scratch). Microsoft took three. Nokia took four (so long they eventually killed the platform and have embraced Microsoft). RIM still hasn't gotten there.

Even though most people don't realize it, being a fast follower isn't easy. The Android team planned for their OS to be flexible and retargetable from the start. You can see it in their architecture, some of their lower-level features (e.g. Intents, input frameworks) and you can see it in the speed of their "iPhone pivot".

>consumers who genuinely think they are getting iPhones.

Are you delusional or just trolling? If the latter, I'd suggest a more subtle approach in the future.

Remember when ReadWriteWeb was the first hit on Google for the term "Facebook" for a few days and they got thousands of people hitting their page posting comments about how they couldn't log into google? Because they were goggling for Facebook in order to get on Facebook, and the first result was no longer Facebook for that period.

That's something you'd probably never do, but for millions of people, that's how they know how to get to Facebook.

I'm neither delusional, nor am I trolling. I'm just making an argument you don't like. I don't think its appropriate that you would characterize me in a derogatory way like that, because you're engaging in attacks to the person, rather than to the point, and I think that Hacker News should have a higher level of debate than that.

> "I don't think its appropriate that you would characterize me in a derogatory way like that"

I'm not sure how you can say that with a straight face immediately after characterizing me in such a derogatory way in http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2934973

You really need to quit while you're far, far behind.

Hi, welcome to the 90s, when patents were already "bogus and a bad idea." Remember GIF? JPEG? LZW? RAR? S3TC? MP3? MPEG-2? AAC? MPEG-4? h.264?

I'll understand if you've forgotten all of these. After all, when a software patent only inconveniences people making Free Software, it doesn't really count as "bogus and a bad idea," right?

Patents were reviled by geeks even in a pre-9/11 world. ;)


I'm always at a loss as to whether I should try to parse thru these snide comments to try and figure out what the argument you're trying to make is, or if I should just ignore them.

At the very least, your putting words in my mouth so I don't have to defend them.

Please don't make snide comments and then complain when others reply in kind.

You have implied that patents have only recently been something seen as problematic, and that patent warfare is something invented by Google and Android vendors to attack Apple. The reality, however, is that there have been several highly litigious patents in computing which have been used to threaten people. Let me expound on some of the more infamous ones.

The modern GIF format, GIF89a, used a compression algorithm called LZW. This algorithm was patented by a company named Unisys. Unisys threatened ISPs and large websites with legal action if they didn't agree to license the patent. This directly led to the creation of the PNG format as a free and open alternative.

S3TC, the S3 Texture Compression algorithm, is patented by a group of graphics vendors known as S3, and licensed to Microsoft under terms which let MS sublicense it under the name DXTC, (DirectX Texture Compression). The patent holders have been very mean about enforcement, and the patent is broadly written, so it applies to nearly every possible S3TC implementation, software or hardware. To this day, MS still makes money off of every graphics card sold, from licensing fees, and free 3D libraries, like Mesa, cannot safely ship S3TC decoders for fear of legal repercussions.

h.264 is covered by a big portfolio of patents, held by MPEG-LA (Motion Picture Experts Group Licensing Authority). They have been very proactive about getting licensing fees any time they can, and using fear tactics to suppress free codec libraries like x264. One member of MPEG-LA is Apple, by the way. That's right, Apple has been conducting patent warfare since before the conception of Android. (Since I'm expecting a [citation needed]: x264 development started in 2004 at the latest; Android was acquired by Google in 2005.)

>[Google fans] want to believe that it is ok for google to rip off the iPhone and give away a counterfeit operating system

I love how in one breath Apple fanboys call Android a copycat and in the next claim it's so much harder to use than iOS. Which is it?

Not to argue but you can imitate something poorly. I'll leave it up to others to argue which OS is better.

Depends on what metrics; iOS definitely isn't the most open of the two, for instance.

Where's the contradiction? Google didn't spend 7 years working out the kinks to get the usability right. Also, since they license to anyone, most of the hardware is crap hardware, thus the pointing accuracy is way off. Also, Apple takes a 72 pixel, roughly, finger contact area and turns it into a touch point with pixel level accuracy. That's not easy and that's not easy for Google to copy (probably because Apple hasn't patented it, or the patent didn't give enough away.) That right there is probably a large reason why they don't work as well.

I find the notion that Android is a copycat silly, given the significant differences between Android and iOS. Apple has liberally incorporated the ideas of others throughout its history: everyone from Xerox Parc to Braun... and that's a good thing because it has helped consumer computing evolve. If Android is a copycat of iOS then iOS is a copycat of PalmOS. The real underlying issue seems to me that Apple is bitter about anyone competent daring to compete with them.

Figuring out the precise centroid of a 'blob' has been around for at least 20 years - this calculation was used in optical research to determine where the centroid of the pupil was in video taken of someone's eyes.

To suggest that this kind of algorithm is something special and new that Apple invented for the iPhone is just plain insulting.

Apple invented the GUI (using some ideas they licensed from Xerox), as part of a project that Steve Jobs led. The NeXT cube inspired the web to some extent and made the first browser much easier to write. Apple invented the touch UI. Hell, just listing the significant inventions of Apple is almost embarrassing because any list is going to leave so many of them off.

This is why people feel the need to "denigrate" Apple -- people have serious misconceptions about the history of computing, resulting in a new history in which Apple is penciled in as the creator of everything. Their contribution to the history of computing is significant, but claims that they "invented" all these things give too much credit to Apple and too little to the companies and researchers who had the same ideas but lacked the resources, capitalist desire, or business acumen to profit from them.

See raganwald's comment regarding execution: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2934813

No, people denigrate Apple because they are invested, emotionally, in a competing product and they do not want to believe that Apple did innovate as much as they have.

You're right that there are a lot of serious misconceptions about the history of computing, but they are all on the side of the people who claim that products that came after Apple's products are proof that Apple didn't invent the category, etc.

As for companies that lacked the "desire", or "resources" to invent these things, well, they don't deserve any credit because they didn't invent them.

You seem to be operating under the misconception that inventions are just ideas... and you would do well to read the ragenwald comment you link to, where he notes that ideas without execution are nothing. Apple did invent these things because they took them from ideas-- which are easy-- thru the hard part of solving all the problems with the idea-- to fruition. All those people who didn't bring anything to fruition didn't earn any credit.

Just as those people who copied Apple's products didn't invent them either.

Frankly, I find it kind of amazing that people who clearly have very little knowledge of this history of computing will repeat these myths-- myths debunked over 30 years ago!-- and patronizingly claim that people who are debunking the myths are operating under "misconceptions".

It's like trying to talk to a non-technical person who heard someone from some pimply kid over at Best Buy and therefore they think he's an expert and you, with the CS degree don't know nearly as much about computers... but of course, they don't know anything either, so they just see him as an authority figure because hell, he's 17, and he works at Best Buy, right? Sigh.

If Apple "invented" the GUI by commercializing some ideas that started at Xerox, how is it that the Xerox Star was released before the Lisa?

Now, the Macintosh was a far more impressive execution of those ideas than either of its predecessors, but to say Apple "invented" the GUI, and to downplay Xerox's contribution, is unfair.

I'm not saying this because I'm "invested" in any product or company; I owned a 512-K Mac, I covet my wife's MacBook Plus, but I don't find identification with any particular company's fictional narrative a useful way of discussing technology or history.

I like my Macbook as much as the next guy, but this is way too frothy:

> Apple invented the GUI

No, they didn't. Xerox invented the GUI. You seem to be aware of Xerox's role, so I can't figure out why you'd assert that Apple making use of those ideas later would then constitute them "inventing" the GUI.

> NeXT cube inspired the web

That's stretching things, to say the least. The early web was a fairly incremental step from Gopher. Sure, Tim Berners Lee used a NeXT machine, but it's not like CERN wouldn't have had networked, GUI-based UNIX computers if it weren't for NeXT.

> Apple invented the touch UI.

Huh? Touch interfaces have been used for ages. The restaurant that I worked at in high school in the mid-90s had one on its cash register. Apple didn't even produce the first touch-screen phone.

Similarly, Google's "invention" of PageRank was pretty incremental. It was a refinement of Jon Kleinberg's idea for using link-based search ranking.

Most innovations, when looked at under a magnifying glass, turn out to be more or less incremental. Apple's had some really impressive instances of refining, marketing and popularizing. That said, most innovation is really just refinement.

Have they been the most influential company of the last decade? I think it's too early to tell, but I seriously doubt it. That's something that's clearer in the history books. We're probably looking in the wrong places completely. It seems totally plausible to me that the human genome being sequenced in the last decade will trump e.g. mobile internet in its long-term effects on society.

If any of Apple's innovations will pan out as having been truly disruptive to society, I'm pretty sure it will have been their first. Their role (along with their contemporaries, most notably Commodore) in popularizing personal computing is one of those truly game changing moments in history. My life was radically changed when my family got a computer. In contrast, when I got my first smart phone (considering the fact that my non-smart phone already had Google maps, Skype, a web browser and IMAP client) virtually nothing changed in my life.

(As a side note, there hasn't been anything that Google's done thusfar that I'd nominate for being society changing. Web search was already prevalent and the research that led to PageRank was already out there. Google Books, Street View and their work on autonomous vehicles seem like they might be some of those things in retrospect.)

Some minor nitpicks

> Xerox invented the GUI

Not really either. Engelbart has show mice and windows before the PARC folks. I remember people dragging stuff with light-pens on IBM's 2250's and other similar GUI-like behavior on high-end CAD and image manipulation software. Was the Star close to what Apple offered? Yes. Was Star clunky in comparison? Yes. It was also 3 times more expensive. I think the single most meaningful innovation in Lisa was the mouse drag actions and the clipboard metaphor. They made a convenient bridge between physical and virtual objects that took windows & icons one step further.

> The early web was a fairly incremental step from Gopher

It reminds me more of local-based hypertext and SGML. From that to HTTP, it's a very easy jump.

> Apple didn't even produce the first touch-screen phone.

Indeed. I owned a Sony Ericsson P-800. It was multi-tasking, had a huge touchscreen and, when I first saw the iPhone, I felt it was very "meh". Nice animation, beautiful icons but I had a more functional phone. And the honor of the first touch-screen smartphone belongs to the IBM/BellSouth's Simon. Unless you count Esslinger's concepts (they show a touchscreen desktop phone that predated the Simon).

And yes. I agree that Apple's most revolutionary product was the Apple II, but it must share the spotlight with Commodore, Atari and Radio Shack. The Apple II is (or, at least, should be) a source of inspiration for engineers: it's simple, small, concise and incredibly rich in functionality.

> there hasn't been anything that Google's done thusfar that I'd nominate for being society changing

An open-source post-PC OS seems quite impressive. Helping move data into web apps, dooming local storag, too.

Apple DID NOT invent gui. When Jobs visited PARC he saw three revolutionary ideas:

GUI Networked personal computers Object Oriented Programming

Source: http://www.amazon.com/Fumbling-Future-Invented-Personal-Comp...

Seriously, that book is a must read for any person that reads this site. 3 dollars for a used copy. And Apple did not license anything GUI related from Xerox - there was a lawsuit involving the lack of licensing the technology.

You know what rubs me the wrong way? I am a geek - I love it when the geeks get the credit for making things work and the marketing people just get the credit for the shiny veneer. Woz is the geek here and I feel like he doesnt get the credit he deserves. Anybody know where Woz worked before Apple? HP - he took the risk of leaving a well established company and joined forces with Steve Jobs. I am not saying it didn't work out well for him but I think too many people forget about him and focus on the other Steve. Oh well. Oh yeah, I wrote this on my iPad and it took forever to compose. FWIW.

> But, what significant inventions can we credit to Microsoft?

They put a computer in every home.

...and on every desk, all running Microsoft software. For some time in the 90's that was reality. Even if you owned a Mac.

An accomplishment, for sure. But, not an invention.

I think that's a pretty arguable point. I would argue, for instance, that it was Apple that put a computer in every home... as the Apple II was selling very well, before microsoft came onto the scene. Microsoft was successful in taking marketshare away from Apple, but it was apple who invent the home computer category.

At any rate, I don't deny Microsofts massive commercial success... but that success is not itself an invention. If you meant the personal computer, it wasn't microsoft that invented it.

Microsoft? Enterprise software. They still own this area

HP Excellent quality servers and network hardware. It's hard for that to be sexy because it doesn't have a touchscreen, but just because the masses don't know about it doesn't mean that they're an also-ran.

Dell Perfected mass-marketing of PCs, bringing computing costs waaaay down for everyone.

Lenovo Meh, they bought IBM's line of laptops only a few years ago. I notice that you studiously avoided the "so, what has IBM invented that's significant?"

Samsung Dunno, I'm sure someone will come up with something.

Sony Yeah, Sony have never pushed the envelope with things like the Playstation. Combined with Microsoft's Xbox, these guys have pretty much created a massive market where previously there was none. Not to mention the bunch of other stuff that the multi-tentacled Sony has done.

The cell networks I was unaware that we were looking to service providers to change the way we use computers.

The reason why people denigrate Apple is because Apple fans invite it. They keep on about the company like it's something amazingly special and everyone else is somehow daft for choosing something else. I've seen this referred to as "the Apple Smug Field". You've done it here by saying (or strongly implying) "Apple is awesome, what have those other guys done? NOTHING!", which, of course, is monumentally self-centred and irritating.

While I know this is semantics, I'd argue that Sony (and the XBox) didn't create a massive market where there was none. Nintendo and Sega previously had the market in shackles. Sony expanded it immensely with the PS1 and the PS2. I say expanded because the market grew around the one that was already there. They certainly did affect the market though. The hardware proved capable of providing games that were previously difficult to impossible to make on Nintendo's and Sega's systems.

Given the context of the general argument involving Apple 'creating' versus 'expanding', your semantics are a good point. the PS and XBox massively expanded a nascent market - but there were also innovations like the development of online profiles and the like.

> But, what significant inventions can we credit to... the cell networks? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_Labs#Discoveries_and_devel...

I believe you may be overstating your point, or maybe it's the wording, but I hope you are not implying that sony or hp or samsung, with almost 200 years of total company histories, have not invented much and have survived by sheer luck.

I believe Sony has some significant innovations in portable music players back in the 1970s, and certainly made major strides in transistor radios in decades prior. Samsung I'm not really aware of any innovations from, but I wouldn't deny that they may be there. HP was very innovative in test equipment, but not so much in personal computers, as far as I am aware.

But it is worth noting that I was genuinely asking a question. It is easy for me to think of the innovations I named (and many more) from Apple, and the ones I named from Google, but off the top of my head, in the areas of mobile phones, tablets and personal computers I can't think of any from those other companies... and wondered if I wasn't missing them... so, by all means, if you have some significant innovations to bring up, I'd be happy to hear them.

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