Blog Post

What Will Apple Borrow Next?


Apple (s aapl) 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?

39 Responses to “What Will Apple Borrow Next?”

  1. I wanted to comment on the “Twitter won’t last 6 months” comments. It’s getting pretty close to six months, and as far as I know, Twitter is still alive and going strong.

    As for Apple borrowing or acquiring, everyone does it. Apple and Microsoft are both incorporating ideas from each other– as well as Linux, BSD, and whoever else has a good idea. The biggest difference is that if Microsoft does it, they’re hung on a rope for it, and if Apple does it, they’re celebrated or just given a “wink and a nod” about it.

    I don’t intend for this to sound like an Apple-bashing comment, rather that it should be held to the same standard as Microsoft. If you’re going to hang Microsoft for stealing, then you need to hang Apple right next to them. Since they both do it, and neither does a very good job of hiding the fact.

    Have a great day:)

    • geotopia

      Well, they will probably have to borrow from companies like Apple, which has over $30B in reserves. Surprisingly, the really successful high tech companies, like Cisco, MSFT, and Apple have been very frugal and have very conservative CFOs that they will laud one day for giving them the financial resilience to survive the economic storm we are now JUST entering.

  2. I was fanatic about Claris Emailer back in the late 90s, and violently resisted its total failure to continue working on my iMac in early 2000. I understand that is from NeXT, but I always had a hunch that Apple was trying to get the feel and functionality of Claris Emailer, which they also owned.

  3. Torbjørn Vik Lunde

    As much as I like Twitter I don’t think it’s mainstream enough for Apple to actually include it. Besides: there are already many good Twitter-clients for the mac. (Try finding one for Windows that isn’t shit.) If I remember correctly iChat was released in a time where good Chat-clients where very scarce on the Mac.

    And since I was talking about iChat. I agree with Dave on MSN support for iChat. I think in a lot of Europe(at least in Norway) MSN is the de-facto IM-standard. It’s what people actually use. (And don’t get me started on the official MSN-client for Mac.)

    • geotopia

      This is a good point by Dave and Torbjørn (cool name!) and it doesn’t matter if Apple sees MSN as a direct competitor, MSN should be one of the networks supported in iChat, similar to Exchange Server being supported by the OS.

    • That’s the one thing that truly annoys me in the world of IM – I have to use the likes of Trillian (AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo), just to be able to keep up with all the people. And, agreed, MSN is Europe’s standard – more or less.

  4. mathue

    Borrowing, such as it is in the computer world is dicey. Very little of what we see as an interface today was completely new or novel when it was incorporated. Colour, antialiased fonts, sound, cameras and desk layouts all were around in some shape or form, either electronic or physical before computers came along. As was noted on an episode of the Simpsons years ago; “You wouldn’t have the Flintstones without the Honeymooners.” Personally, I feel Twitter, being that it appears to have no long term profitability will go the way of other such ventures did. As it is, it’s basically a texting service, they just have a slightly novel way of going about it. As a feature it certainly wouldn’t be a make or break item for me or probably a great number of OSX users.

    Apple has in the past incorporated features it needed from others, probably the best known was ‘Sherlock’. Once might notice it has vanished today, its functionality long since generic and fully available via the web.

    Many functions we use today were at one point individual applications from third parties.

    Also, I didn’t notice if someone pointed it out, but Quicktime has had editing abilities for a while now (I think Tiger), mind you, it’s only in the pro version.

  5. I wish Apple would integrate MSN capability into iChat, i love the iChat interface, and living in the UK, AIM isn’t widely used. The MSN Messenger application for Mac is terrible, and doesn’t even have features built into the versions of Messenger available 7 years ago. I know you can make MSN contacts available via a jabber client, but its a long and laborious process that isn’t secure, and doesn’t always work. I know that Apple must be able to do it, because there is obviously multi client apps available for OSX, it would just make one of those little things easier, not only for Mac natives, but for switchers used to windows.

  6. spoonbender

    I think it would be great if apple incorporated a ‘twiiter like’ capability into ichat or some other app. Then again Im biased on both counts. I love apple and twitter so…

  7. What a worthless waste of space. Stealing ideas happens all the time. People steal anything and often kill to do it. Americans should know as their own history testifies. Wars are waged, mostly by the US it seems, in order to steal whatever they want. Apple does not kill to steal. It has principles lacking in government. If the Apple desktop belongs to Apple, why shouldn’t they add screen recording to QT? That is not theft. It is enhancing their own asset.

    • geotopia

      KHTML was the genesis of Webkit which is in Safari, and the browser behind Android, Adobe AIR, and a few other great browser applications. I believe some folks might have gotten WebKit working on the Sigma SOC platform which would put WebKit on 90%+ of desktop, portable, mobile, and set top box solutions. I wouldn’t be surprised if web metrics started showing Webkit surpassing FireFox, if it was all counted as a group, between Safari, Android, iPhone, and AIR. In the shift from desktop to portable, IE could find it’s own base seriously eroding as well.

  8. @Dave

    It is just an opinion and he is speaking the truth, and there is nothing moronic about his comment. I am not surprise he comes back and say the same about your comment.

    BTW even with a name it still meant nothing because this is the internet and comment worth very little especially writers who feel the universe revolve around them and their views are the universal truth and commands.

  9. I’m on an older Mac with the base installation of iMovie, so I may be eating my words soon…

    I’m surprised that there’s no way to upload a version directly to YouTube. Perhaps they could utilize their API to do the encoding on the user’s local machine rather than having to wait a couple of hours for a video to go live?

    • iMovie ’09 has uploading to Youtube built right in. For whatever reason it still needs to be processed on Youtube’s servers, but in general any movies I’ve ever put up have been viewable within 15 minutes of the upload finishing.

  10. richthetech

    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.

    • geotopia

      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.

    • geotopia

      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.

  11. “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.

    • geotopia

      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.

  12. Gazoobee

    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.

  13. alexmillsdesign

    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?


    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!

    • 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…

  15. 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 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.

    • geotopia

      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.

  16. 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.

    • geotopia

      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.