Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

First off, let me preface this with a full disclosure: I am a Apple fanboy. An iSheep. A worshipper at Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ivy’s feet. I don’t mind paying a premium for an aesthetically pleasing design, impeccable packaging and a walled ecosystem.  With that in mind, I couldn’t help but notice three products introduced today that are awfully familiar with Apple’s own products. I’ll present my evidence and let you judge. Presenting exhibit A:

“Behind every great idea, there’s a great machine”. Dell introduces the XPS One line of all-in-one computers. A 27″ model, with an LED-lit 2560 x 1440 display, i5 or i7 Intel processors, a front-facing camera, a slot-loading Blu-Ray drive, mixed in with USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports and a lesser-spec’d 23″ model.

Clearly, Dell’s $1,350 attempt at cloning an iMac, with USB 3.0 and Blu-Ray thrown-in for good measure. Dell should change their slogan to: “Behind every great idea, there’s Dell copying it”. Let’s move over to exhibit B.

Samsung announces the Chromebox series 3, a $329 cloud-based workstation wrapped in an all-too-familiar container, specifically, the one first introduced with the Mac Mini. Engadget says it best:

Samsung’s Chromebox looks very much like a Mac mini, with the exact same 7.6-inch-square footprint, rounded corners (using a smaller radius) and silver rim (made of painted plastic instead of aluminum). It’s thinner (1.3 inches vs. 1.4 inches), lighter and eschews that unibody aluminum shell for a rather cheap looking matte black plastic top cover featuring prominent Samsung and Chrome logos. The bottom cover is similarly black — it pops open without tools and incorporates a circular ridge that doubles as a rubber foot and air vent.

A Chromebook, but without the monitor or keyboard, running the 5-second to boot Google Chrome OS. Now, lets move over to exhibit C.

Samsung annouces the Series 5 550 Chromebook, a $450 Google-cloud powered machine, complete with a wedge-line metal exterior, SSD drive and black chiclet-style keyboard.

A third generation Chromebook and Samsung proves that every generation is getting closer to Apple’s MacBook Air.

As a technology-obsessed, gadget-loving, card-carrying geek, I really don’t mind technology companies copying Apple’s designs. I really couldn’t care less. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. What does make me sad is that these companies are dedicating resources to cloning instead of innovating.

I applaud Nokia and Microsoft in their effort to rethink and start from scratch, as evidenced in the Nokia Lumia 900, with a unique form factor, an OS that breaks the homescreen paradigm introduced by Apple (iOS) and copied by Google (Android), and their disregard from the on-going spec-race that Android phone manufacturers have gotten into lately. This exactly what we need more of. More unique designs. More innovation. More risk-taking. Less cloning. Less litigation.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in Apple’s world, imitation is the reason why lawyers are on speed dial.