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On “Getting Sherlocked”

I learned a new term today, “being sherlocked”. At first I found myself slightly giggling, because we named the dog “Sherlock Holmes”. How can that be a verb?

This verb was widely used together with various app names. Instapaper? Sherlocked! Dropbox? Sherlocked! And even Apple’s competitors. Amazon/Google? Sherlocked. Doubly so.

Now I cannot stand if somebody tweets smart things without explaining them, so I looked it up. I could only find one suitable explanation. UPDATE: Actually there’s another one which implies malvolence by Apple. See bottom of article.

Perusing the allknowning Googleon I discovered this definition:

The slang term “getting sherlocked” was used during the late 1890s to refer to being intellectually bested. It is best illustrated in this quote from a Globe story from 1895, “Mr. Brown reported that he first got sherlocked by Mr. Lockhorn in an alley behind the building and then was sherlocked repeatedly after sharing a quiet supper at a dinner club.”

Aha! Intellectually bested. Fitting. Apple’s engineers are intellectually top notch. And besting they do as well.

Now from what I have seen today I have developed a theory as to what Apple’s strategy might be to take over the world. I felt like sitting in with a presidential briefing, learning all the secrets of how the enemy was to be wiped out. Thank god, I am with the good guys. The likes of Amazon, Google and even Microsoft pale in comparison.

Like who in his right mind would buy Windows 8 for a over $100 and a single machine, when OSX 10.7 “Lion” can be had for awesomely unlimited devices for just $29.99? Definitely sherlocked. This basically destroys Microsofts consumer business model.

So “getting sherlocked” was generally described when Apple revealed yet another feature that previously was only available via a separate app or service.

Take for example Instapaper. As I had predicted the three parts that make up Instapaper are now seamlessly integrated with Lion and iOS:

  • Putting interesting articles you want to read later on a reading list
  • Viewing such bookmarked articles in a clutter-free cleaned up way
  • Synching the reading progress and list across all your devices

Marco Arment (maker of Instapaper) commented on this crater left by the Apple meteorite “cautiously optimistic”. He argues that it is good for his ecosystem if Apple takes on the burden of educating users as to the usefulness of reading later. Granted some people will want to stick with what they know or look for alternative web-based services. They might turn to Readability which is more or less the same.

Personally, I am pretty sure that I will ditch Instapaper, as what I have seen will be exactly the kind of functionality I was hoping to find deeply integrated into the OSes as well as perfectly synched. But, I’m also the kind of guy who always uses the browser with the home advantage. Back in my Windows days I stuck with Internet Explorer. Now I am loving Safari more every day.

The second example of “Sherlocking” does not attack a single app as directly, more like a whole thriving category: Tasks. Up until know if you wanted a task list to check off you had to buy an app. But these almost never synched or were incompatible with the tasks corporations have on their Exchange servers. Apple to the rescue! Really, they know that it has been a mistake to not have a built-in solution for that until now and the will remedy that. Good for the users, bad for the kinds of company which at present derive all their income from one best-selling task planner.

Oh, and Apple is not satisfied with that. Not only are these lists synched between all your devices via iCloud, they give you reminders and also you can do fancy things like have your iPhone notify your wife as soon as you leave e.g. your workplace via a so-called Geo-Fence.

I can already hear an argument brewing: But, those task apps give you so much more! Well, nobody is telling you that you cannot spend money on apps any more or you have to remove a task app you happen to like. But think of the millions of new iOS devices which now get an even more complete basic feature set built-in.

“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” said Steve Jobs in this 1994 video. That about sums it up nicely.

In my opinion it is the users that win the most. And if users win, we developers win, because the cards are shuffled anew and you can go about finding the next great idea. Make some money while you can, you have two years now until iOS 6.

Never before have we seen Apple reveal so many “stolen ideas” as shining new and exciting features in their software. But actually Apple does more than just that, it would be a cocky oversimplification to call Apple a photocopier. There are even worse companies that steal from Apple. Some of which Apple is now taking to court.

So the first pillar of Apple’s awesomeness is to keep their eyes open for great ideas whose time has come. I cannot tell you more at present, but let me hint at the second pillar: innovation.

Turns out, that if there are two mutually exclusive technologies, that kind of work, but have some drawbacks, then Apple does not fuss around with adapting these. The simply invent a third technology that has only advantages. Apple is the only company that I know of whose employees are so smart as to actually come up with quite original solutions to old problems. Like totally unexpected paradigm shifting ideas. If there’s one company capable of that, then it’s Apple.

From where I stand I can see that Apple cemented their 1-2 year head start for another couple of years. And the gloves are off, how can you compete with Apple offering something that costs a fith as much as our product or is even free?

PS/UPDATE: I was pointed out to me that there is a second just as suitable explanation as to the origin of “getting sherlocked”. Interesting enough just as fitting. The predecessor of what we now know as Spotlight was introduced by Apple in OS  8.5 and was called “Sherlock”. At time it instantly obsoleted an app named “Watson” made by Karelia software.

So it’s up to you which interpretation you prefer: did Apple BEST of these apps? Or did Apple “knee-cap” them? Personally, I prefer the more positive variant.

Categories: Apple

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