Tim O’Reilly has some interesting comments on the common notion that Apple is an innovator, Microsoft a copier. His position is that Apple doesn’t really innovate that much more than other companies — what they do is to package and market difficult technologies in such a way that people realize they need them the minute they see them in action — AirPort, Rendezvous… all technologies that were sort of inchoate in the industry — Apple polishes things like this to a high gloss and makes them into fetish objects. By the time MS gets around to similar, it’s clip art.
Example: Tim is especially enamored of Rendezvous, which is impressing me more all the time. The zeroconf spec has been floating out there for a while, but Apple implemented it at the OS level and started building it into apps. Now my browser has automatic, real-time bookmarks to every user’s homepage on every Apache-running Mac on my subnet, iTunes can see the collections of every iTunes user on the home network, and so on.
Aside: Customer Reports on customer satisfaction with Macs.
Update: In the comments, Allistair McMillan points out that Rendezvous actually is an Apple technology – I stand corrected (this takes a bit of the wind out of Tim’s sails as well). FireWire removed from the above list – not sure why that was there to begin with, der.