Beware the Attack of the Apple Clones

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It isn't hard to see who is dominating this holiday season. Watch television for an hour and you're bound to see commercials for smartphones and tablet computers. But if you take a closer look you can see they're all just clones of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) products.

I just envision product developers at electronics companies around the world waiting for Apple product launches to see what they're going to try and reverse engineer next.

It's just like an iPhone ... sort of
The smartphone copies started almost immediately after the iPhone was introduced and everyone saw the future. Now, most iPhone clones are made possible by Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android system, which has performed remarkably well against the iPhone. The latest comScore data says Google gained 6.5% market share from July to October and is less than 1% behind Apple's market share. HTC has probably done the best job creating iPhone clones with the my Touch, EVO and Droid Incredible.

Even mighty Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is taking some cues from Apple with the Windows Phone 7. If you can't beat them, might as well copy them.

A tablet for everyone
Before Apple joined the tablet market with the iPad it seemed to be a business that could never really find its way. But since the iPad we've seen a plethora of copies including the super-hyped Samsung Galaxy Tab this holiday season. The Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS  ) Nook Color is another tablet offering fewer features and a lower price than the iPad. How could Barnes & Noble possibly develop that without taking more than a few ideas from Apple?

Of course, this is nothing new for Apple. In 2004 fellow Fool Alyce Lomax wrote of the attack of the iPod clones, which did little to derail Apple's dominance in music. It looks like a repeat attack on Apple's phone and tablet products this time around. We'll continue to see products keep coming out with fewer features, lower quality and lower prices. That's great for the discount shopper but not exactly a threat to Apple's business.

If imitation is the best form of flattery the electronics world is doing its best to flatter Apple this holiday season.

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium wrote this article on a Mac and does not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 8:51 PM, IronHamster wrote:

    Of course, the first and most obvious clone was not mentioned. Windows 7, a clone of McIntosh '87.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 8:51 PM, JokerJoey wrote:

    The real fun thing about this is that every time the competitors think they've caught up Apple brings out something that's so much further ahead that it drives them crazy just trying to keep up. This is because the competitors just don't get how the Apple ecosystem works. Well, wait...maybe Google kind of gets it, but there is such a mish mash of stuff out there running Android that there's enough to drive anyone nuts just trying to figure out which device might actually accomplish what a prospective customer really needs to accomplish. Apple devices are much more elegant and reliable in all respects. Need I remind everyone about what will happen when the iPhone gets to Verizon? Just watch Apple's stock go to between $450 and $500. Quickly, Easily, and dare I say it...Elegantly!

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 9:55 PM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    The difference between the iPod clones and now is that in 2004, Apple had the first online music buying store and you could only get to it with an iPod. Now Apple is tripping over itself to get other company's services on its devices. (Netflix on the iPad at launch, Google Voice on the iPhone.) The need to have an Apple product to do something unique is gone.

    Without that, price is going to be a major factor. If you can do everything with a Droid or WP7 that you can do with an iPhone, why pay $100-200 more for an iPhone?

    Remember a few months ago when serious people wondered if the Kindle could survive against the iBooks onslaught? That turned out to be a non-issue. Amazon has had their best quarter ever for Kindle sales and Apple has been a non-player in book sales. Apple isn't a factor in online movies, either.

    And saying Windows 7 is the same a clone of Mac '87 is straight-up ignorant. Apple's reliability is more myth than reality, too. Two of our company's three iPhone 3G's have been replaced because of battery issues and we routinely have problems with lockups, application freezes that force a reboot, and a battery-sucking timesheet app that can kill a phone in a couple of hours.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 11:04 PM, Oldfool103 wrote:

    I started with a DOS IBM before moving to a Mac. When Windows arrived, with scads more software, i switched over; but never felt I really "got" it. It was only after returning to a Mac years later that I realized what was frustrating me about Windows. The intuitive stuff was no longer there. I guess that makes me "straight up ignorant," too. Sorry about your freeze-ups, we sure don't experience them on our iGadgets. Of course, the iMac just keeps chugging along. And finally, with the Apple TV, I am no longer paying the monthly cable bill. Colour me Candy Apple Red.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2010, at 11:27 PM, websterphreaky wrote:

    Appletards, got to love em.

    Just a reminder Mr. Nitwit Writer .. You probably didn't notice that Macs are PC CLONES, made on the SAME Commie Chinese assembly line as Dells and Gateway computers (FACT). Same parts.

    As for "Cloning" -

    -Apple CLONED Xerox PARC OS.

    -Stole the Mouse from a private inventor.

    -Stole from Window 3.1 - the Task Bar and Garbage Can.

    -Had Sony/IBM DESIGN and MAKE all PowerBooks until 2000 (ALL are marked Made in Japan).

    -Hyundai Korea DESIGNED and MADE the G3 iMac.

    -iPud is ripoff of the first RIO.

    -Newton was designed by an Engineer at UCSD.

    -Psion pre-dates the Newton.

    -Apple's ONLY didgial cameras, QuickTake, were actually Kodak's, made in Japan.

    -Kaypro and Compaq FIRST to make All-in-1 PCs.

    -Bought Apple Works, not created it.

    -Same for Final Cut, Logic 7, etc.

    -Stole Widgets from Konfabulator

    -The iPhone is an exact Rip-Off of a LG phone shown at CeBIT a year EARLIER!

    -Gateway had a 10inch "Pad" over 7 years ago AND it had writing recognition too!

    -Apple HASN'T MADE ANYTHING since 1982, -EVERYTHING was off-shored since the Apple ][e was contracted out to a mfg in Canada!

    - and the list goes on for a mile.


    -Apple did invent OUTSOURCING American Jobs

    -Invented the term i, as in iNOvator

    -Took Greed to the Limit, hasn't paid a penny of Dividends to Stock Holders while Stevie is God.

    -Took Exec Stock Option Corruption to a New Heights.

    -Did't pay Jobs, then BOUGHT HIM a $80M Private Jet.

    and that's a short list.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2010, at 12:38 AM, kthup wrote:

    While I'm sure "Foolish analysis" was originally intended as a funny, hip, trendy play on words, it hits too close to the mark in describing the approach of these writers. Analysts don't ask questions like "how could Barnes & Noble possibly develop that without taking more than a few ideas from Apple." Amatuers do. This site is not a place for education or enrichment, just amusement. Assuming you find uninformed blogging amusing, of course.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2010, at 5:04 AM, iamtellingu wrote:

    @websterphreaky, look at you, instead of creating something useful, you spent all your time to hate APPLE. What a waste of time! Get over it and do something useful like Sergey or Larry from Google!

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2010, at 8:04 AM, kariku wrote:


    - Window 3.1 - what task bar ? what trash can ??

    - Bought Apple Works, not created it. -- So did Google with everything but the search engine.

    - Apple HASN'T MADE ANYTHING since 1982 -- It's all about software, dude, and user experience.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2010, at 10:37 AM, megoogler wrote:

    The author is correct in picking up that B&N's Nook Color (while not designed to compete with iPad directly) indeed does so very effectively by selling projected 1 million units in 42 days since the product introduction. It's appeal includes anti-glare coated color touchscreen that is much better and sharper than iPad's for reading and it's price which is not just "lower" than iPad's but is HALF of what iPad costs. Also, it has twice the RAM of iPad. Reminding you that iPad was not the first tablet on the market by far and was effectively cloning earlier products with some improvements. Are you complaning of Toyota's "cloning" of Ford T model of 1908? I think they made several improvlement on the way...

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2010, at 8:17 PM, Popnfresh100 wrote:

    The nook color is an ipad clone?

    I guess, except

    1. The original nook came out before the Ipad (and the Barnes and Noble sold the rocketbook reader waaaay before either)

    2. The fact that the two products don't serve the same function, operate using different business models, and aren't the same size.

    The only thing nook "copied" from Ipad is the fact that both use a touchscreen and can be used for reading.

    That's like saying the Apple store is a clone of Barnes and Noble's bookstores because they both sell things and are located in buildings.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2010, at 1:19 AM, websterphreaky wrote:

    Looky looky, the AppleTards have no rebutal, so instead they change the subject...

    iamtellingu - subject changer extraordinaire.

    kariku - "Apple HASN'T MADE ANYTHING since 1982 -- It's all about software, dude, and user experience." what sa matter? Can't debate the lies CrApple spins ... so now it's about software??? Ah remember, it ALL started with Apple STEALING without paying for, Xerox PARC OS!

    Oh and where was Google in the orig discussion??? NOT.

    As for Windows - my mistake, Mac System 8 (July 26, 1997) stole the Windows 95 (June 1995) Taskbar. Both were at the bottom of the screen.

    CrApple also stole System restore, which Windows had in XP long before OS X did, as well as Indexing.

    Wonder when CrApple will steal - SpeedBoost, embedded Defrag, Disk File Cleaner, and an App Uninstaller??

    Hmmm maybe is it about the "experience", not a good one with OS X.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2010, at 12:16 AM, steveadl wrote:

    A lot of the debate here belongs on tech forums, not an investing community debating AAPL. Yes lots of people hate Apple, they weren't the first to produce a mobile phone, tablet, portable music player etc.

    Who cares? Are they making massive amounts of profit on hugely increasing revenues, with great ROE etc etc? Yes. That's the reason I own AAPL stock.

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