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Is Apple About to Copy Microsoft for Once?

By Evan Niu, CFA – Apr 30, 2013 at 8:00PM

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There's a long history of Microsoft copying Apple, dating back to the early days of the PC, but the Mac maker may be about to copy the software giant for once in the all-important mobile landscape.

Over the decades, there has been a long history of Microsoft (MSFT 0.57%) copying Apple (AAPL 1.19%). This trend most notably started with the graphical user interface, or GUI, that the Mac first brought to consumer PCs and was subsequently followed by Windows.

Another prominent example would be the Zune, which had hoped to muscle in on the iPod's success, but largely failed. Most recently, Microsoft's entire business strategy may be transitioning toward Apple's ways, as Steve Ballmer has made it abundantly clear that Microsoft's future lies in becoming a "devices-and-services" company, a departure from its predominantly software approach.

Well, Apple may be about to copy its rival from Redmond for once.

Apple is just weeks away from kicking off its Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC. The headliner at the event will be iOS 7, which is expected to see its first aesthetic overhaul in years. Numerous rumors over the past couple months have pointed to design chief Jony Ive pursuing a more "flat design."

Further backing up these claims is a fresh report out of 9to5Mac, whose own sources deep within Cupertino echo the notion that Ive is going for a "very, very flat" look in the next major version of Apple's most important operating system. All of the current usage of glossy, shiny, and skeuomorphic textures are all going by the wayside in favor of a modern look. In fact, iOS 7's "flatness" is said to approach that of Windows Phone.

Windows Phone 8 Start Screens. Source: Microsoft.

Microsoft's "Metro" design has been praised as a modern and innovative take on touch interfaces. Using live tiles to present dynamic information has also been a key selling feature of Windows Phone. I've always been a fan of the typographical style, even though the broader market hasn't voted in its favor.

The new iOS version reportedly goes by the internal codename of "Innsbruck," and will feature freshly designed interface elements throughout the OS.

If Apple's WWDC teaser image carries any clues about the design direction that iOS is taking, then the Mac maker might be heading in the same aesthetic direction as the software giant.

Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. 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.

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