Good artists copy, great artists steal -- so said Pablo Picasso, as the legend goes. It's true, even at Apple. Apple has been inspired by others from the start; in the early days, the work that led to the graphical user interface and mouse at Xerox PARC moved Jobs and Steve Wozniak to do the Lisa, then the Mac. The concepts were going nowhere at Xerox, but Apple made them the basis for a truly new form of computing. That's true inspiration, not mere copying. As poet T.S. Eliot wrote:
One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.
Sometimes, a refined copy is also a good move. We see it routinely in consumer products, where a nice touch in Brand X's TV shows up in competitors' models the next year. It's common in car design, appliance design, clothing, and jewelry. Apple now seems more willing to make such refined copies when relevant to its overall design or feature set.
Expect Apple to steal more, while continuing its own innovation. That'll put more pressure on its competitors, who won't be able to ride so easily on their breakthroughs while copying Apple's. I'm not worried, though, about iOS or OS X becoming a jumbled collection of ill-fitting approaches, as Android and Windows 8 have become. (To be fair, Google is trying to clean up Android, as is HTC in its HTC One.) Apple's Braun-inspired design approach favors simplicity, cohesion, intentionality, clarity, and efficiency -- with a touch of surprise and whimsy -- and is likely to integrate others' ideas more thoroughly, most of the time at least.
I also don't expect Apple to be the only company that understands this approach. The original WebOS showed a similar philosophy, as did Windows Phone and the new BlackBerry 10. But because it's Apple, people will notice what it copies and embraces -- and get upset when it's from their preferred platform. Get used to it -- I'm confident Apple's hubris has changed enough to make artful stealing a good thing.
This article, "Yes, iOS 7 copies Windows Phone and Android -- get used to it," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.