Mobile OS investigate

Death of the TouchPad: What it reveals about the future of tablets and mobiles

Four mobile lessons the end of HP's webOS slate teaches us...

...smartphones are lucrative for many companies, tablets are lucrative only for Apple.

4. To beat Apple you have to be different Fourth and finally: imitating Apple is not enough. Bringing great devices to a market where Apple doesn't play is one thing. Bringing great devices to a market where Apple already is - or even where Apple suddenly decides it wants to be (as it did with smartphones back in 2007) - is always going to difficult and, for some, deadly.

Nokia has learnt this to its cost. Google has deployed a successful strategy in the smartphone space to grow Android - now the largest mobile OS, but it has done this exactly by not imitating Apple: unlike iOS, Android is open source; runs on the hardware of multiple mobile makers which exists in multiple form factors, at multiple price points and so on.

Copying Apple may sound like a great strategy on the surface - who wouldn't want to imitate the slickness of iOS, the runaway success of the App Store, the sales and revenue garnered from sales of iPhones and iPads? But in many respects Apple's success is another trap for its rivals to fall into: a pitfall many seem unable to avoid.

Imitating Apple means rivals condemn themselves to remaining on the back foot rather than capturing the imagination of tech users by creating genuinely innovative devices. There they have to struggle to catch up - when they could be ploughing (and owning) their own furrow. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but in business terms it can be the sincerest form of flat-footery too.

It's time for electronics companies to switch off their photocopiers and think differently to Apple. Amazon has managed it with the Kindle - a mobile device that does not seek to clone Apple's hardware. The Kindle may end up being translated into tablet form and by then Amazon will have a healthy ecosystem of Kindle users underpinning its efforts.

Likewise if Google decides to use its mobile hardware division - that is, Motorola - to really challenge Apple at the premium end of mobile, it will at least have a thriving Android ecosystem behind it to give it a fighting chance. That's something HP/Palm just couldn't manage.

Designing and building great mobile devices is tough enough at the best of times. Now Apple has made sure these are the toughest of times.