Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Copy Cats - Copying Can Be Cool

There is an aura about innovation. To be called an innovator is a big ego boost. It creates a superiority complex and there is a rarefied air around the innovator.
On the flip side I wonder how many like being called Copy Cat or Not Original?  Not very cool and certainly not a tag which you would like to have.
But if you look at successful companies and products there are a list of them which have been very very successful.

The dream of many - Apple had copied the Mouse and also the GUI ( Graphical User Interface from Xerox  PARC). Infact PARC did sue Apple but lost out to due some technicalities. The first Apple Macintosh was inspired by the GUI.

The list from Microsoft is huge.  MS Basic copied Tiny Basic. MS DOS copied CPM-86. Windows copied the early Mac OS. Word copied WordPerfect. Excel copied Lotus 1-2-3. Access copied FoxPro. Windows Server copied Novell Netware. Exchange copied Lotus Notes. Internet Explorer copied Netscape Navigator. C# and .net copied Java.

Rumour has to Google copied bits from iOS for its Android.  Not surprised that Jobs was livid with Google especially since Eric Schmidt the erstwhile CEO of Google was on the board of Apple.

It is not that even consumer products have not faced this. Closer home the big daddy- Unilever copied Henkel's Fa in India and called it Liril. The marbled effect, the shape, the colors and the fragrances were copied. Why even the advertising jingle was copied. The success of Liril is the story of lore in India.

Modern trade chains regularly  successfully copy products from established manufacturer brands.

There are a string of products/ molecules copied by pharmaceutical manufacturers which have helped bring down costs and increase distribution

There are examples aplenty of how many brands/ products have been copied of inspired by others.  The key implications are:
  • There is no harm in copying provided IP is not violated.
  • The copier can give a better a product/ value than the original creator.
    •   Microsoft was smart to learn from the mistake of others launch a products with was far more acceptable and then use the leadership (near monopoly) position to ensure that customers adopted the software.
  •  Success does not come from creating a product/ service but reaching and providing value to a customer.
  •   Leverage customer accessibility to increase value to customer
    • Distribution costs especially in the online world is negligible.
    •  Modern trade chains have access to a set of customers and hence can provide products which compete and provide more value to the end consumer.

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