Apple has a history of either buying apps or boldly copying features from developers and including them in OSX. So what borrowed features could we see in OSX next?


Apple has a history of either buying apps or boldly copying features from developers and including them in OS X. So what borrowed features could we see next in OS X?

Software companies frequently acquire other technologies to speed up development of their own platforms, and Apple is certainly no stranger to acquisitions. Cover Flow, LogicPro, Shake, DVD Studio Pro, and several other high-profile apps and features all arrived on Apple desktops via acquisitions. iTunes is probably the most well known of those acquisitions — formerly known as SoundJam MP from a company called Casady & Greene, which Apple bought in 2000.

But Apple has also borrowed its fair share of features from other developers without acquiring the company. OS X’s Dashboard feature is thought by many to be a complete rip-off of an older software package called Konfabulator from Arlo Rose (now owned by Yahoo, called Yahoo Widgets).

With Apple’s next operating system, code-named Snow Leopard, rumors have surfaced that the OS will implement screen recording features using Quicktime. This capability has long been left to third-party developer apps such as Snapz Pro, SceenFlow, and iShowYou. Time will tell how well (if at all) Apple actually implements such a feature, but if it does, it’s just another one on a long list. More than a few developers are probably already stewing over the fact that Apple introduced minor editing and sharing capability into Quicktime X at WWDC.

So what could Apple add next?

Though the recent rumor of Apple acquiring Twitter was laughable in my mind, it got me thinking. Apple doesn’t need to buy Twitter, but it could easily borrow a few features from other developers and add Twitter connectivity into OS X on a few levels.

First the obvious. Apple already bundles iChat with every Mac. It’s easy to use and already offers integration with AIM and Jabber, so why not add Twitter into the mix as well? It’s a good-looking app, has shortcuts available via the menu bar, integrates with OS X’s Mail application, and more.

Safari140 Plugin

Safari140 Plugin

Because Apple controls the most popular browser on the Mac platform, Safari, it could also integrate URL-shortening and “Tweet This” -style features into iChat and Safari, making it the most complete Twitter client for Mac users. Oh, by the way, the ability to “Tweet This” in Safari is already available via Safari 140, a plugin from David Watanabe.

It’s clear that social networking is here to stay, and Apple has a great opportunity to add many social networking features into their apps, and the OS itself. The only questions are will Apple do it, and from whom might it creatively “borrow” features?

What features do you think Apple should add next?

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  1. Apple did not buy Casady & Greene, which was a software publisher. Apple bought SoundJam from the developers — and hired at least one of them. This acquisition essentially put Casady & Greene out of business.

    1. C&G was a pretty diverse publisher, fonts, tools, apps, and SoundJam. I don’t think they OWNED SoundJam, but were just the publisher. If they sold the distribution rights to Apple, then they must have gotten paid a fair price but I don’t think that put them out of business, they must have either decided to close up shop or made business mistakes elsewhere because an acquisition would have meant cash, not a loss.

  2. ROTFL, “creatively borrow” hehe, I love it :)

  3. I think that for now you’ll simply see an expansion on the integration between Apple products and Google services and Facebook.

    I don’t think you’ll see Apple invest in integrating in things that have a potentially rocky future. Twitter is a great service and all, but have they yet found a way to monetize the thing so that they can keep it going? As far as I know, that’s a big question mark that needs to be answered (and I haven’t paid attention over the last month, so I’m assuming it hasn’t been yet…).

    Quicktime X I think may shape up to be what Quicktime should be. Has there been any word on integrating DVD Player with it? They should. I’m curious why you would say that some developers are probably angry with the video editing features being included with it. It’s less powerful than iMovie, and that’s on every Mac that gets sent out the door. I doubt that Quicktime X will be competition for any worthwhile third party video editing software.

    As far as things I’d like to see them do:

    Well, as it stands now, Quicktime is the slowest video converter on the planet. Pretty much every other video converter I’ve tried is much faster. I’d love to see them either ingest somebody else’s work or do their own to speed up transcoding times.

    I’d love to see something like BootChamp built into the OS: a really quick way to reboot into Windows for a single time. Adding something like that to the whole boot camp package would up the level of refinement of the whole thing and make it a little more accessible.

    Adding something like GimmeSomeTune to iTunes would be great as well (at least the system-wide hotkeys and Last.fm support).

    A nice cocoa batch file renamer with a good GUI would also be appreciated if it could just be built right into the Finder.

    I do think that for right now, though, you’ll continue to see improved integration with Google services and Facebook.

    1. GREP based renaming with some simple serialized numbering would be a great addition to the Finder, but there are already some tools that get pretty close to doing that through CMI and faceless (no dock icon) apps. I’d like to see SpeedDoubler (CopyDoubler) where simple dragging gave you an option to “Smart Copy” new items when a folder already exists in the target location. There have been some RSync type apps, but no integration and the apps always end up back up applications when all I want is a folder-by-folder ad-hoc tool.

  4. no point WHAT SO EVER Twitter will be dead in 6 months the only people who care about it are major bloggers because it gives them something to write about. Real users drop off after a month of usage, thats even worse than facebook!

    1. Completely agree – social networking sites will eventually decline in their usage, so I don’t think we should be trying to incorporate them everywhere. The internet is (mostly) about being selective, exclusive, and cool. With facebook and twitter quickly becoming the AOL chat of the 21st century, maybe it’s time to look at other ways of networking people. OFFLINE networking. What a radical concept. Meet up with friends, a good bottle of wine…

  5. alexmillsdesign Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    The “selected” toolbar item design in leopard was actually borrowed from the Tiger version of Coda from Panic. They had to write their own toolbar to get it working, once demoed, apple quietly told them that it may or may not appear in leopard as default. Pretty neat but no credit?

  6. Just to make a random comment I think Quicktime X will have a slow uptake because of the hideous retro icon they use for it in Snow Leopard. The people who think it’s somehow related to a failed early 90’s Lesbian action committee will be eclipsed only by those who have no idea what product it’s supposed to represent at all.

    Next up is Apple’s main logo, which is scheduled to be replaced by a more metallic version with rivets around the edge and flames shooting out of the bottom.

    I also heard that Jobs will insist on lens-flare effects or possibly leopard spots on all product boxes moving forward.

  7. “no point WHAT SO EVER Twitter will be dead in 6 months”

    I love the anonymity of the internet. People can spout whatever gargage they want without having to suffer ridicule when their words are proven moronic.

    1. Then let me jump without anonymity and echo that. The drop rate (or simply inactive accounts) at Twitter are going to soon out way new accounts and just like AOL, Geocities, and MySpace (just laid off 300 employees today), these trendy social sites will fade. Facebook, I would argue, has ONE shot here, and that’s to refrain from adding superfluous trendy features, and focus on the communication aspect of Facebook – hooking people up, period contact, informing folks of what you’re up to. Consider that Facebook can easily do what Twitter does best, but it’s not reciprocal, Twitter can’t become a Facebook. Twitter is a one tweet pony.

  8. Very minor point about Quicktime: limited editing of video is already in Quicktime, and has been for the last couple versions.

    Just sayin’.

  9. Social networking is dumb 2.0. It’s narcissism on a grand scale.

    1. You rush too quickly to judgment. Some aspects of social networking, like the over-bling of MySpace or the too-real-time triviality of Twitter quickly become tedious, but Facebook and LinkedIn are proving themselves as worthy endeavors that actually serve a social function. Saying ALL “social networking is dumb”, would be about the same as calling telephones dumb when the first phones were being installed. Maybe they needed some spit and polish, but life was never the same after A.G. Bell.

  10. As a side note. Final Cut was also an acquisition Apple made. It just made it before the original product was released. Apple bought it from Macromedia – I saw a demo of the then yet unfinished version of Final Cut from Macromedia at NAB one year and then Final Cut was released by Apple the next year at NAB.

    1. Unknown secret, the main programmer for Final Cut might have joined Apple directly from Macromedia, but originally came from Adobe’s Premiere team. Awesome programming genious – reminds you that it’s not hoards coding in Redmond that give us breakthroughs, but individual talent working in the right environment.

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