The misfortune of having an idea copied by Apple even has an industry term. “Getting Sherlocked” harks back to the time Apple’s desktop search tool called “Sherlock” borrowed many of the features of a third-party companion tool called “Watson,” which no longer exists.
Imitation is common in the tech industry. “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas,” Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said.
But what makes Apple’s practice different is its access to a trove of data that nobody else has. The App Store, where the original apps were offered and competed for downloads, collects a vast amount of information on which kinds of apps are successful—even monitoring how much time users spend in them. That data is shared widely among leaders at the tech giant and could be used to make strategic decisions on product development, said Phillip Shoemaker, who served as Apple’s director of App Store review from 2009 to 2016.