Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How far is too far... hmmm? *squints eyes

I've been ingrained at an early age that plagiarism will ruin your life, academically and otherwise.
If you dare to plagiarize, you'll become the pariah of society and be shunned in shame for all of eternity. Eventually, so full of self-loath, you'll commit suicide. End of story.

Needless to say, I've never plagiarized in my life. I have however done some "creative paraphrasing". Honestly, who's gone through post-secondary (or even high school) without doing that?
Point is, plagiarism is bad.
However, in marketing we glorify it a tad and call it "prototyping". Taking the market leader's products and prototyping our own to resemble it. Thus lending all the positive association with the market leader's product to our own. Pretty convenient.

To some extent this amazing. It leverages all the marketing the market leader's done and boosts our own products by eroding the leader's market share. But now we ask ourselves as marketers, how far is too far?
If we prototype too much isn't it just copying their product and implicitly admitting defeat to their superior products?

Case in point is the recent lawsuit between Samsung and Apple.

Let's start off by saying I own both company's products and am personally a huge fan of Samsung's new products and their (generally) strategic direction. Also, I have a school boy admiration of the sales and marketing skills that are masterfully displayed at each Apple keynote by Steve Jobs.

This lawsuit alleges that Samsung copies Apple's iPhone and iPad designs.
I'm not here to pass the judgment on who's in the wrong - that's the court's job.
I'm here to analyze the effectiveness of prototyping and its role it plays in modern mobile technology industry.

The industry and its trends
Since the beginning of time, prototyping has been around. From copying the designs of weapons of neighbouring countries during war-torn eras to the modern day Apple vs Everyone-Else-That-Has-Produces Tech-That-Resembles-Apple-Products, it's been around.
A recent, notable event in history is the introduction of what I'd like to call the Apple Fever. Very much akin to the b***** fever (to protect the little boy's privacy). I draw parallels because there are obviously better alternatives out there but people just flock to them. It's unimaginable and illogical, right?
Because of this craze, people started "prototyping" the iPods. There was even an episode of Simpsons that poked fun at the fact that all you need are Apple ear buds stuck in your ear to make others believe you have an iPod.
Because of this, more and more companies are copying the big A's product designs (HP Envy series, Samsung Galaxy smartphones, Galaxy Tab 10.1, etc etc).
It's harder to find "innovative" designs nowadays. Of course, it doesn't help that the innovative designs are often duds (ahem BlackBerry Torch).
So why "innovate" and risk a big R&D flop?

The role prototyping plays
In my opinion, prototyping is an important aspect in capturing market share. It is absolutely vital in the early stages when trying to slay Goliath.
The first few products pushed out should be textbook examples of prototyping with a few distinguishing features to differentiate it from the market leader.
Here's where I give kudos to Samsung.
With the introduction of their super AMOLED display, they have a strong differentiating feature.
Slowly however, as their brand matures in the market after a few products that are prototyped from the market leader's, the company should start to capitalize on the distinguishing feature and diverge away from the prototypical design.
I believe Samsung is going to approach this step near the end of the next quarter or latest, end of this year.
Sony (you and your arc/xperia play) kinda jumped the gun. But I admire the guts you displayed and give kudos to you. However, recently with the bad PR (PSN hack) and the natural disaster (3.11, prayers still with Japan), it's hard to make a strong comeback in the next little while.
All in all, to establish yourself as a strong brand, companies that aren't the market leader in their industry can do one of two things:
1. Do something radically different and hope it flies.
2. Prototype a little while and diverge.

So now that we've understood more about this prototyping business, we get back to the main question: how far is too far?
I draw the line when the two products look exactly the same when you place it a few meters away and squint really hard. Of course when you pick it up and play around with it after riding the teacups and it seems exactly the same to you then; that's also too far.

His honourable judge Brian Leung presiding.
My verdict: Samsung is not guilty of copying Apple's design.
There are so many features available only on Samsung that aren't found in the egoPods.

Final word:
Technology are like girls. All the top-notch ladies are very similar on the outside, but once you get to know them and discover their unseen attributes you'll really find out that they're all different. In the end, lucky lady you choose to keep says a lot about yourself as a person. Obviously there will be dudes who will just want to date people purely based on outward appearances, there's a market for everyone. To each their own.

To the millions of companies out there trying to climb to the top of the market by stepping on other companies: please exercise moderation and common sense when prototyping. Consumers are smart. We don't appreciate (for the most part) excessive copying.

Cheers and stay busy!

PS. If you're an xx chromosomed being or your orientations are different, change the gender thing to your liking. I write in the first person and in my personal views. Life's too short to rewrite things to accommodate everyone, I hope you understand. No hard feelings

No comments:

Post a Comment