There's a long history of stealing--or creatively borrowing--the best ideas in technology. That's especially true between Apple and Google. In fact, it was Steve Jobs who once told his biographer, "I'm going to destroy Android because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
Of course, that's the same Steve Jobs who also said: "Picasso had a saying--'good artists copy; great artists steal'--and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." In reality, most of the best innovations happening in the technology we use every day are iterations of what already exists.
Well, it appears that Google now plans to innovate on Apple's AirDrop feature.
That makes sense, considering that AirDrop is easily one of the most useful features Apple has ever included in its software. That's the feature that lets you send files to other Mac or iOS devices near you using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, without having to email or send a text message.
AirDrop allows you to select a photo or a file, tap the share icon, and then select a nearby user who is either on the same Wi-Fi network or in your contact list. You can then share the file over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth without having to send it over the internet. Instead, the file is sent directly between devices.
Now, Google is bringing a similar feature to Android called FastShare, which will use Bluetooth to allow users to share files with devices in close proximity.
It's a little different than AirDrop in that it's a standalone app you can download from the Google Play store, whereas Apple's version is baked into the operating systems of both its mobile and desktop computers. It also only works between Android devices, which means it's less functional if you're using a Samsung smartphone and a Windows laptop.
Still, this is good news for Android users, since FastShare, if it works like AirDrop, will be a super-simple way to move even large files between devices. Google previously used a near-field-communication (NFC) system called Android Beam, but FastShare will be available to both Android's newest version, "Q," and to older devices with the downloaded app.
There's also an interesting lesson here for entrepreneurs about innovation and ideas. I'm not advocating stealing ideas--though if it works for Steve Jobs, who am I to criticize? Rather, I am suggesting that there's something better than always trying to find the "next big thing."
In fact, many entrepreneurs never end up doing anything because they become so focused on inventing something new instead of taking an existing idea and making it better. They never get around to building, or shipping, or delivering their big idea because they're waiting until they come up with something that's never been done before.
That almost never happens. What does happen is that innovative companies find creative new ways to do something that actually adds value to their users' experience. Google and Apple have built enormous ecosystems based on this very practice.
Of course, if it's good enough for Steve Jobs, it's good enough for the rest of us.