Apple and the innovation hype machine

I know that Apple OS X is just around the corner, and for those so inclined, I don’t actually mind if you pay for update. But what I do care about is how stuff is advertised. The Apple OS X Leopard “feature page”:http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/300.html boldly claims:
bq. Even Leopard innovations have innovations.
So, how true is that? Let’s look at innovations from the category I happen to know best, web browsers. Let’s go through the “Safari 3.0”:http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/300.html#safari news one by one.
h3. Fastest Web Browser
Uhm. That has been Opera’s claim for years. Apple’s claim is recent. Note, I’m not disputing that Safari is fast, but for instance “these findings”:http://www.rockstarapps.com/wordpress/?p=73 suggests that measured by raw JavaScript performance, Opera is faster. And “so does these tests”:http://nontroppo.org/timer/kestrel_tests/. It should also be added that not all benchmark tests “may be accurate”:http://www.howtocreate.co.uk/safaribenchmarks.html
h3. Enhanced Find
Safari now highlights every search phrase as you search. Uhm. Not a Safari innovation. Opera has had this since Opera 9.0, and Firefox implemented type-as-you-find before that, but didn’t highlight every result instantly, something Opera also sort of did since Opera 6.0
h3. Movable Tabs
An Opera feature since 7.0. I don’t know when Firefox introduced it, but it’s at least in 2.0, and Epiphany has it.
h3. Pull Tab into New Window
Uhm. Yet another Opera feature. It’s been in since Opera 7.0, which is from “december 2001”:http://files.myopera.com/IceArdor/blog/Timeline%20of%20Opera%201.9.svg (The timeline chart has a few alternative versions here). In Opera this feature is called detach. The re-attaching in to an existing window appeared in Opera 7.20
h3. Easily Create Tabbed Bookmarks
In Opera, these are called Sessions, and were introduced in _Opera 2_ (1995 called and just wanted its features back). In Opera you can save these sessions, close the browser, and reopen the browser at one or more points where you left off, or decided that saving state was a good idea.
h3. Merge All Windows
See above. Opera has had the opportunity to reattach tabs to new windows since 7.20. I’ll concede that automatically merging them might be “new”, but it’s also a particular trait needed in OS X, where windows are typically created to never be found again.
h3. Full History Search
Opera has it in “public weekly releases of Opera 9.50”:http://my.opera.com/desktopteam. I can’t verify it right now, but OmniWeb has allegedly had it for three years, according to “this comment”:http://simonwillison.net/2007/Sep/16/opera/#c37331
h3. Reopen Windows
Also an Opera feature, since 7.2. Opera 9.50 also introduces the undoing of entire closed windows, with all their tabs.
h3. Resizable Text Fields
Uhm. No, this is not an innovation. Bookmarklets and JavaScript libraries have existed for years. I _do_ however concede that having them built-in in the browser is an improvement.
h3. Preview Controls for PDFs
I’m not entirely sure what Apple mean by this, but I thought the Adobe PDF plugin has always been able to do this, no?
h3. Remove History Items Periodically
Uhm. Most browsers have some way or form to keep the history size down, organized in slightly different ways. Opera by visited sites, IIRC, IE does it by days. Firefox doesn’t provide an UI, but in the days of Mozilla, or even Netscape, it used days as retention period.
h3. Desktop Picture
On Windows, at least, this has always been a feature.
h3. Warning Before Closing Tabbed Window
Opera can warn you whenever you close a window. Opera allows window unclosing, up until you quit the application entirely. Firefox will warn you if you have more than one tab open in a Window.
h3. Conclusion?
Well, I have none. That’s up to you, but out of 13 “innovations”, none of them are actual Apple innovations. Makes you wonder just how many of the 300 “Leopard innovations” that have innovations. Such as “workspaces”:http://www.gnome.org/learn/users-guide/latest/overview-workspaces.html.
(Note, I’m not especially claiming that my employer did invent all of what Apple didn’t, and I would appreciate it if anyone actually knows of implementations of features mentioned here that predates Opera. My “disclaimer”:http://virtuelvis.com/help/about.html also applies).

6 Comments

  1. Asta

     /  2007-10-18

    No, these are 300+ new features/improvements, not 300+ innovations.
    The word innovation refers to the product and the company, not specific features.
    Take a look at these, neither one is an INNOVATION.
    OpenDocument and Word 2007 Formats
    Take advantage of TextEdit support for the Word 2007 and OpenDocument formats for reading and writing.
    Russian Localization
    Mac OS X Leopard is fully localized in the Russian language.
    Polish Localization
    Mac OS X Leopard is fully localized in Polish.
    Portuguese (Portugal) Localization
    Mac OS X Leopard is fully localized in Iberian (Portugal) Portuguese.

  2. Frankly, I’m more interested in the CSS improvements, particularly some of the CSS3 features that are in Safari 3, than the UI improvements.
    On the Find highlighting, though, there is actually something new in Safari as compared to other browsers. I’m not sure if you’ve played with the beta at all, but they’ve really put some effort into making the highlighting *noticeable*: it highlights a larger area than you would get just by changing the background on the text, and more importantly, it dims the rest of the page. On really busy web pages, I’ve occasionally missed search results because the highlighting blends visually into the clutter.

  3. I agree, Safari’s Find highlighting is a very nice touch that I’d like to see Opera copy.

  4. Hmm! That does sound nice, Kelson- and I also wanted to point out that Firefox was highlighting all search results in the page before Opera was…

  5. meh

     /  2007-10-18

    What does that have to do with anything, Joel?

  6. I agree this isn’t innovations. However, I must say that Apple usually implements things in a more convenient and slick way than Opera. Pressing ‘.’ in Opera activates “find as you type”, but the search results are being highlighted in a very unnoticable and often irritating way, moving the focus point and often moving to the wrong place due to the page being zoomed and such.
    I still love Opera and think it’s the most innovative and revolutionary browser, but it wouldn’t hurt looking at other browser’s implementations of the very features Opera invented to see how they might be improved. Firefox for instance has a much nicer search dialog (CTRL+F) than Opera, since it’s not modal and thus doesn’t get in the way of the content you’re actually searching for. The ‘.’ interface in Opera almost accomplishes this, but it disappears after a while and pressing ‘.’ again doesn’t bring the interface up with the last search word.
    Apple is indeed not as innovative as they want to portray, but they do implement things in a very slick and natural way. All browser vendors should look to their competition, extract what’s good and improve upon it.