Unfortunately, it has almost become the rule: Every Apple software unveiling has a more or less bitter taste for indie developers.

Yesterday without much fanfare OS X Mountain Lion was presented to us, and it contains many nice new features. Most of the features such as notifications we already know from iOS. However these notifications strongly remind of the ones you find in Growl, an open source notification system for Mac OS. At least that’s how John Gruber (daring fireball) sees it. The tool has been around for more than seven years and to much regret took the step from freeware app to paid App Store offering. Loyal fans (like me) of course, have no problem to support the project around Christopher Forsythe with 1.99$.

Growls benefits have since been discovered by other developers and borrowed for their own apps. Since version 5 Skype users can choose between the built-in “Visual Notifications” and Growl who previously had to use the definitely Growl. This summer OS X Mountain Lion will be offering notifications that fade in and out the upper right corner and then disappear again. Hello Growl.
grow vs. notification center comparison

grow vs notification apple comparison

Growl notifications on the left and Apple's new notifications right

Apple uses the ideas and concepts of the developers that already put their creative energy to benefit Apple far too frequently. At the presentation of iOS5 this was particularly obvious and I was not the only one pointing out cases like that of WhatsApp vs. iMessage. Another example is Delicious Library. Wil Shipley’s jaw dropped when he saw the Apple Keynote in January 2010 when he saw the interface of the newly released iBooks app.

Apple bedient sich viel zu häfig der Ideen und Konzepte der Entwickler die Ihre kreative Energie ohnehin schon zu Apples Nutzen einsetzen. Bei der Vostellelung von iOS5 war dies besonders offensichtlich und ich war nicht der einzige der über Fälle wie den von Whatsapp vs. iMessage berichtet hat. Ein anderes Beispiel ist Delicious Library. Wil Shipley fiel die Kinnlade herunter als er bei der Apple Keynote im Januar 2010 die Oberfläche der neu vorgestellten iBooks-App zu sehen bekam.

“I guess it’s not enough Apple has hired every employee who worked on Delicious Library, they also had to copy my product’s look. Flattery?”

Later, in an interview with TechCrunch he seemed disenchanted:

“Now, of course Apple couldn’t contact me ahead of time and say, ‘Hey, we’re taking your idea, thanks.’ Their lawyers would worry they’d open themselves to a huge lawsuit, for one, and they’d also be leaking a secret. Nor could they write me a check. Even a token one would be an admission (in their lawyers’ eyes) that they were copying something. They are a public company — they can’t write someone a check unless they got some value in return. And if they got value, the lawyers would ask, how much was it? How was it determined?,”

At least he can be proud of his work:

“My designs are my children. … But your children aren’t really yours. They have lives of their own. So when your designs do change the world, you have to accept it. You have to say, ‘Ok, this was such a good idea, other people took it and ran with it. I win.’”

It almost looks as if the Growl team would have to grow similar attitude. Because lock-in effects are much weaker in Growl, than in WhatsApp Messenger. And for the developer community we can only hope that public pressure will bring Apple to start to pay royalties but for others’ ideas.