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Of Imitation, Innovation, Inspiration and Improvisation

Copy-paste was never easier, thanks to modern technology. Ideas and innovations now spread even faster. When a product is launched in the market, within a few days, we have other vendors with a similar offering. The case is more severe with mobiles and tablets.

Few days back, I bought an Android tablet - simple 7" screen, 8GB storage and other such features. I had a tough time selecting one for me. All the tabs had a similar configuration. It seems as if all of them took the similar hardware specifications, made some changes to the look-and-feel, re-branded the product and voila we have a different tab altogether. The difference is majorly the OS version, support for USB devices,  accompanying apps and up to some extent, if the device is pre-rooted or not.
This is a similar case with 7" and 10" Android tabs. Market is full of similar type tabs of which the buyer is unable to pick one. They do not directly compete with the iPads or the Galaxy Notes and attract buyers who do not wish to shell out huge money for a tab - willingly or due to budget constraints. I had both the reasons to by the Android tab.

Some vendors innovate. Their product speaks for itself. iPad is one such product. You take it in your hand and you feel different - not sure if you feel good or not - but you feel different. Like most of its Android counterparts, the iPad also comes from China. But the key differentiator is the build quality and the performance. This comes from the thought given while designing the product.

This gives a very good lesson. The designer(s) should try to make the product - not only a tab but any product - easy and simple to use. The user should not even require training. They should say, "Oh! I can tell how this would work". Apple is known to create such products - iPod, iPhone and the iPad - which were readily accepted by the market and were are huge hit.

But it took years for Apple to reach that position and launch such products. And still there is scope for improvisation. Another such company is Microsoft, which is believed to be a Copycat by many. Many claim that Microsoft had stolen the design from Mac. Even Microsoft Office is not their own idea. So what? Apple was not the first company to make a touch phone - Microsoft was. But iPhone was successful, due to the innovation and improvisations done to it. Same goes with some products from Microsoft too. Its Office suite is still the most popular - and Microsoft is still trying to make it better - Ribbon UI, support for other file formats and other such improvements are coming with the new versions.

I'd say that Microsoft might get inspired from some products and improvise them. The most recent example is the latest tablet PC launched by Microsoft - Surface. I cannot comment on the performance and compatibility points but one thing is clear that the designers and engineers at Microsoft have given some thought before designing this product. Surface is not geeky, rather it has an intuitive design. The different size (10.6"), detachable stand, detachable touch and type keyboards are the improvisations that they have added to Surface.

Users of other tabs buy accessories. But surface can be used as a laptop / netbook and a tablet. This clearly shows that a product can add value for the user based on its features and ease of use.

Of course, they had to design it like this. They are offering an iPad killer.

I am not sure if this would kill iPad or not or if Apple would add any new feature to iPad or not. All I want to  say is that even if you copy, add some value to the product or service and that value could become the key differentiator or the unique selling proposition (USP).

Time will tell what will happen to Surface when it comes to the market, but Microsoft has left everyone curious. Hope to see a great product!

- Vivek

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