The Death Spiral: It’s what happens to those who steal from Apple

“There are two disturbing trends in technology these days,” Kate MacKenzie writes for Mac360. “The first is the most obvious– the propensity of technology competitors to steal product designs from Apple.”

“The second is less obvious, but increasingly distinct if you dig into the numbers a bit. It’s what happens to those tech companies which steal from Apple,” MacKenzie writes. “As best as I can tell from a weekend of analysis, those companies that steal product designs from Apple go into a death spiral.”

MacKenzie writes, “Despite what Apple’s technology competitors say, and despite what the technorati elite and market prognosticators say, copycats seem to enter a profitless death spiral from which no company has yet to return.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Lenovo unveils shameless Apple iPhone 6 knockoff – November 7, 2014
Jony Ive: Rivals that knockoff Apple innovations and designs are thieves – October 10, 2014
Xiaomi’s MIUI 6 Android skin mimics Apple’s iOS 7 – August 18, 2014


  1. Kate’s explanation of this ‘death spiral’ amounts to just, karma. That’s fine for savouring a long moment a feeling of revenge, but there has to be a non-mystical mechanism operating to create this pattern of competition.

    It’s bound to be a combination of factors operating in this particular consumer marketplace. Killer products. Excellent quality, support, and service; focus on consumer delight; ground-breaking innovation; best ecosystem, best privacy, best aspirational brand cachet, and now vastly expanding interoperability.

    Stuff like that. Apple just kills the other guys. It doesn’t need karma.

    1. I think it goes something like this: you have discerning customers, and non-discerning customers. The discerning ones aren’t interested in a product that’s clearly an imitation of another, high-profile product. They want the real thing. The non-discerning ones are fine with a copy, but they want a substantial discount. Add this up and you get a customer base that just won’t pay as much as you need for your ripoff to be profitable, especially when you consider that a close copy probably costs you as much to make as an iPhone.


  2. Eventually the copiers run out of the copying poop that made it possible to leapfrog momentarily and now must depend on their own resourcefulness to stay ahead but lacking that start to fade. Apple is the slower, thoughtful ‘n steady hand that wins the race. This process works much better when it’s in your DNA. Not so good when it ain’t.

    Personally I love seeing Fandroid geektards being shot down in flames with a mighty cruel chuckle. Not terribly big of me but as Captain Kirk once said to a Klingon “I… have had… enough… of YOU!” before booting him off a steep precipice.

    1. About 18 months or so ago, a samsung exec (while in England) said the following concerning R&D: “Samsung looks at the market to see what is selling and then brings their own product to the market.”

      As to “stealing” Is it OK for Ford or Chevy to make a chevy/ford that has an outward look precisely like a Mercedes or BMW? There are copyright and design patent laws that when violated is called “stealing”.

      For a visual example: MDN has many times shown what smart phones looked like prior to the iPhone (and those that were in developement) and immediately after the release of the iPhone the sudden change. Specifically, Google’s Mole on Apple’s Board gave inside info gathered while on the board to Google as to the direction of Apple’s first iPhone. This is called “stealing”.

      In case you still don’t understand this, you probably won’t. Moral issues are non issues to some.

      1. Just because a product looks similar doesn’t really mean anything though.

        Since you want to throw in cars, I’ll throw in TV’s.

        The big Sony HD LCD TV I saw today at the store looks almost exactly like my big LG HD LCD TV I have here at home. It even has the same hookups and does the same thing. So by your logic, would Sony be copying LG? Or would LG be copying Sony?

        The iPhone wasn’t the first candy bar shaped fully touch screen controlled device to hit the market either. That title goes to the LG Prada.

        Which is why I’m even more confused when people act like Apple was the first to come up with the design.

  3. I have been using my new iPhone 6 Plus for the past few days and it is superior in every way imaginable: big beautiful screen, game play is flawless, Siri is fast, it is light enough to hold in one hand, battery is better, HBO Go and Netflix, etc. movies look amazing, it’s easier to type on, there is zero lag, Touch ID is amazing, Numbers for iOS is easy to use, Garage Band is fun, haven’t tried Apple Pay yet, the build quality is first class, iOS 8 is speedy and the design is beautiful.

    The competition may copy Apple’s products, but they will never be able to duplicate Apple products. It’s been seven years plus since the popularization of smartphones. I think the public in general is educated enough by now to understand that Apple products are the best value. The copycats are toast – burnt crispy.

  4. It happened with the iPhone and its going to happen with the watch.
    Fast, immature designs will suddenly focus on the fashion angle for electronic watches – gone will be the black timex/pebble squares and circles. All companies will start making posh straps that are interchangable.
    That wont make them any better but they will morph their appearance to compete in the new market space.

  5. While I admire the sentiment of the article, the reasons for Apple’s competitors’ failures are a *little* more complicated than “karma.”

    Samsung failed not because it copied Apple. That approach (circa Galaxy S & SII) was actually very lucrative; it was the “on-ramp” to the big revenue quarters circa the S III. The reason that Samsung is getting pummeled is that it thinks it can *not* copy Apple and make money. I believe part of this is due to the knuckle skin it had to pick out of its teeth at the hands of a California jury (even though despite what the article says, Apple hasn’t gotten a penny of its billion dollar judgment against Samsung. No rush, Lucy!) But because Samsung’s “original” products have been flopping and their gigantaphone sales have been declining, they’re trying to return to the well of copying Apple design with products like the Samsung 5…err.. Alpha.
    Microsoft is getting steamrolled in mobile not because it chose to copy Apple, but that it arrived too late in the game. If anything, it was universally acknowledged that Microsoft was the only major player *not* copying Apple.

    Windows OEM hardware copycats are simply mirroring the decline in Windows machines. Windows H8 is an unmitigated disaster that is only now – sort of – starting to recover.

    In short, crime does pay – at least for awhile. Just ask Xiaomi. There is no universal karmic wave sweeping these companies under just for copying Apple. The reason for their failure have been their own strategic missteps while Apple has been consistently producing superior products.

  6. This trend goes back farther than the iPhone. Remember Creative? Their quixotic quest to beat the iPod by copying it as fast as they could nearly ran them into the ground, eventually resulting in them leaving the digital music player business altogether.

    (There was no mystical “karma” at work there, though. Apple just kept evolving the iPod so fast that Creative and other competitors couldn’t keep up. By the time the knockoffs hit the market, Apple was selling a new, better iPod for about the same price.)


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