Clone and be cloned


Usually it’s Apple products and inventions that get copied or if you want “stolen”. The list of examples is endless starting with Microsoft Windows that is an evident rip-off of Mac OS. The most recent example is Google Android that is a rip-off of the Apple iOS and HTC that just can’t stop borrowing ideas from the Apple iPhone.

It always has been like this and probably it won’t change… but wait, hold on for a moment. Isn’t Steve Jobs the master-ripper, the king of the idea-thiefs who stole the UI for Mac OS from Xerox? There is no clear answer IMHO.

Xerox PARC has been a research facility that was intended to inspire people. Apple paid them in stocks and moreover hired some people from there and continued the development of the graphical user interface so it was not exactly stealing the idea (More about this epic “inspiration”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_graphical_user_interface & http://www.mackido.com/Interface/ui_history.html). Steve basically took a very promising concept, put some work in it and then brought it to the market. The iPad is the same FTW! It’s no Apple invention but they took this promising concept (everyone thought it’s dead BTW) improved it and brought this great product to the market.

Right now the other Steve over at Microsoft wonders what went wrong with the slate/tablet PC running XP, Vista or 7. Why is it not selling? (More: http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2010/07/ballmer-and-microsoft-still-doesnt-get-the-ipad.ars). He probably knows the answer!

Yes, it’s the developers and the software that makes the iPad unique. It’s the tons of great apps that run on iPhone and iPad. All designed to work with the touch technology. In the end the iPad is software just as the Mac is. Ever wondered why Apple is so determined on the Psystar Mac clones? It’s because they exactly know that it’s Mac OS X that makes a Mac. The box you run it on doesn’t really matter. The Amtek iTablet (http://www.engadget.com/2010/02/05/x2-brings-the-amtek-itablet-back-from-the-abyss-forgets-that-no/) on the image below will never be a true competitor for the Apple iPad because it doesn’t have this huge amount of mobile software that Apple has in the App-Store.

In my opinion the worst that could happen right now to Apple is that Google Android tablets kills the iPad. I start seeing them everywhere for less money than the iPad. A good example is the 1&1 Smart Pad in Germany (http://blog.1und1.de/2010/06/30/einfach-smart-das-11-smartpad/). So what was that about “don’t be evil” at Google? They are trying to “get their foot in the door” in many areas. So far they only really succeeded in search. I hope they stop messing around so much in areas where they don’t belong. It’s what Microsoft has been doing for many years and they didn’t become very popular with this approach.

BTW: Wozniak confirms the controversy between Apple and Google 😉 … and Schmidt can’t answer a simple question: “how the fuck is Google making money with Android”. Not sure but Google is in general such a mess that maybe someone forgot about that or Schmidt just doesn’t want to answer!

Image by Jesus Belzunce

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What happened to RISC processors?

Yesterday I had a pretty nice conversation with a colleague at work about the NeXT computer and why it has been so revolutionary. Not many people know but HTML has been invented on such a NeXT workstation in the CERN research facility. It also has been the first web-server of the world wide web with a nice “don’t tun off” sticker that is common even today (at least in the company I work at there are some Mac Pro machines in the London office that are dedicated servers – of course we have server farms with tons of server-racks but, yea there are still the “don’t turn off” sticker servers around). So why has it been so far ahead of time? First there is the OS… a true multi-tasking OS with features like the dock (just recently copied by Microsoft in Windows 7 and an essential part of OS X). It was really impressive! Second is for sure the hardware that included a magneto-optical drive as a floppy disk replacement (similar to a portable hard-drive or CD-RW). At that time people had 5,25″ and 3,5″ drives that couldn’t compare to what the NeXT introduced.

Not sure why but I associate the NeXT with the time when RISC came up… although it never had a RISC processor (it ran on Motorola’s CISC 68030 and later the 68040 CPU) there have been plans to build a RISC based NeXT workstation: http://simson.net/ref/NeXT/nextworld/94.4/94.4.Apr.PA-RISC1.html Probably they would have released it at some point if Apple didn’t buy the them (Steve Jobs has been fired around 1984 from Apple and founded NeXT after that)

So what happened to the promising RISC technology? Well… it has been many years in Macs as the PowerPC G3, G4 and G5 processor. So Mac OS X (basically the successor of NeXTStep OS) ran on RISC for many years and is back now where it started, on a CISC processor but now built by Intel. Is the RISC-age really over now that PowerPC is history? The latest Mac OS X version doesn’t even work on PowerPC Macs. Not entirely sure if it’s over but devices like the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming console run an IBM Xenon CPU or the recently released Apple iPad with the A4 ARM CPU are all RISC.

There are voices that say that after multi-core the next thing will be to focus on RISC (again) to gain speed without toasting the CPU with clock-ranges above 3-4 GHz: http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=663085&seqNum=3