Of course, we can understand. Companies see a competitor dominating a market and want a piece of the action. It happens every day in business – where companies launch their own version of an established product. Here we look at four of the most famous "me too" products and see whether they managed to take a slice of the market after all. (For some suggestions on where to spend your money, read Top Tech For Your Buck.)
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
Microsoft Zune Vs. Apple iPod
The Apple iPod changed how we think about music. The iPod is a line of portable media players created, and marketed, by Apple that was launched in 2001, and has seen numerous reinventions since the initial models. Unbelievably, this was only 10 years ago, but since then the iPod has been the "must have" gadget. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft wanted a piece of this market, and thus launched the Zune in 2006 – its take on a portable media device.
Microsoft was entering an area utterly dominated by Apple, and although the Zune was deemed a good product overall, it did not hold a candle to the established and fashionable iPod. At the time of its launch, Shawny Chen, a research analyst for Current Analysis, said that in order to become a serious contender against Apple, Microsoft would have to make further adjustments to the Zune, especially considering the number of unfavorable reviews the device had already received. "Current Analysis" was right, and the Zune never managed to take hold of the market. Zune's market share decreased to 2% in the first half of 2009, according to the NPD Group. Finally, just last month, Microsoft announced that it is pulling the plug on the Zune, and is encouraging users to transition to Windows Phone. With the Zune gone, consumers still have many options for music players, yet iPod's reign continues.
Android Vs. iPhone
When Apple launched its first iPhone in the summer of 2007, Google answered back with its mobile OS, Android, within two years. And there started a long war between the two giants over the global smartphone market. Steve Jobs famously claimed that Google's Android platform was a "wholesale" rip-off of the iPhone, and he was willing to go "thermo –nuclear war" on them over the matter.
Ever since, there have been endless debates and discussions about whether Android has taken the market share from Apple. Of course, the debate is flawed, because you cannot compare Android to an iPhone. One is an operating system and one is a hardware device. Currently, there are six major manufacturers: Dell, HTC, Kyocera, LG, Motorola and Samsung making about 42 smartphones and growing using the Android operating system. In addition, due to the open source nature of Android's source code, many other smaller manufacturers are using it on their device as well.
By comparing all Android operating systems with the iPhone, research company Canalys estimated that in the second quarter of 2009 Android had a 2.8% share of worldwide smartphone shipments. According to Gartner, a November 15, 2011 press release states that at the end of the third quarter in 2011, Android possessed a market share of 52.5%, and has become the top-selling smartphone platform. As of November 2011, Google said that almost 400,000 new Android devices are activated daily. More than 100 million devices have been activated in total. (For more on Apple's strategy when releasing new products, see The Power Of Steve Jobs.)
Barnes & Noble Vs. Amazon
Barnes & Noble saw an opportunity to take on the Amazon Kindle and Amazon's dominance of the eBook market. Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch, introduced the seven-inch Nook Tablet, which boasted twice the storage capacity of Amazon's newly announced Kindle Fire tablet, and also had a memory card slot for expandability. Barnes & Noble have had some success taking on the eBook market, managing to bag themselves a 27% stake. Both, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, have now realized how important the eBook and eReader are to the future of their business, and are making a conscious effort to take a large market in this growing business.
Barnes & Noble's Nook release is also now trying to take on Apple – which is half the price of Apple's cheapest iPad. The new Nook tablet is looking to battle the Amazon Kindle Fire with more memory, and Apple's iPad with aggressive pricing. The tablet landscape is in store for some changes.
Windows 7 Vs. OS X
Once again, Apple is back up for discussion as OS X is the Mac operating system compared to Microsoft's Windows. Did Windows copy Mac's OS X with their Windows 7 product? Microsoft rebutted the suggestion that it based the look and feel of Windows 7 on the Apple Mac OS. Last year, a Microsoft manager slipped and said that what his company had tried to do with Windows 7 was "create a Mac look and feel in terms of graphics." Microsoft quickly retracted this comment.
If Microsoft has tried to copy OS X, then reviews suggest that Windows hasn't fully succeeded. Windows 7 has not addressed the security issues, the interface is not as intuitive as Mac's, OS X boots up much faster and the list goes on.
Windows computers still have much to offer. One of the big things they offer is choice. Consumers are given the opportunity to spend their hard-earned dollars on a machine that is better at fitting their individual needs. Windows consumers can choose to spend less if their main use is surfing the internet and word processing. They are also given the option to buy machines better suited for gaming or business needs.
With a market share of over 90%, Windows machines offer the convenience of knowing that most of the task done on one computer can be done on another. As Windows software continues to dominate the market, the question whether it copied Apple's version remains a mystery. (For on the battle between Microsoft and Apple, check out Microsoft Vs. Apple: Does Equal Size Mean Equality?)
The Bottom Line
The argument of who copied who will go on and on. Of course, unless one company wants to sue another over copyright or patent infringement, the real question in business is whose product the consumer buys most, and whether there is space in the market for a competitor's version. In the end, consumers are the ones who make the decision of which product they like the best by going out and buying it.