Another day, another Xiaomi controversy, this time surrounding the company’s new mobile OS, the MIUI 6.
TechCrunch’s Matt Burns went on a rampage, listing “Eight ridiculous examples of how Xiaomi’s MIUI 6 copied iOS 7 And 8”.
Gizmodo’s Pranav Dixit scolded Xiaomi for creating “the most shameless iOS rip-off you will ever see.”
Much of the tech media referenced Liliputing, which was one of the first to highlight the iOS7 resemblance, but didn’t make such a big fuss out of it.
Enough of the manufactured drama.
As Tech in Asia chief editor Steven Millward and The Next Web’s Jon Russell notes, much of MIUI’s design language and user interface elements came before iOS7 was around:
Xiaomi's MIUI copying iOS? nope. MIUI looked that way before iOS 7 coming along. seems like a misguided story.
— Steven Millward (@SirSteven) August 18, 2014
— Jon Russell (@jonrussell) August 18, 2014
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of both versions (MIUI 5 on the left):
Apple isn’t exactly the originator of flat design. You have to give Microsoft credit for bringing the concept to the mobile OS. And Apple and Microsoft aren’t saints, as immortalized in the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley:
Steve Jobs: What is this? This is like doing business with a praying mantis. You get seduced, and then eaten alive afterwards?
Bill Gates: Get real, would ya? You and I are both like guys who had this rich neighbor – Xerox – who left the door open all the time. And you go sneakin’ in to steal a TV set. Only when you get there, you realize that I got there first. I got the loot, Steve! And you’re yellin’? ‘That’s not fair. I wanted to try to steal it first.’ You’re too late.
The fault with Xiaomi is not that they copied, but that they copied without subtlety. But it’s strange that the tech press is expressing mock outrage now, especially when the topic has previously been talked about ad nauseam and much more objectively by the very same publications.
Is this just a byproduct of a pageview-obsessed, demented media reacting to the news currant without examining its own past coverage, anti-China bias, and the fact that Xiaomi might be innovative in some ways?
As tech media consumers, we expect better. Looking at the reactions to TechCrunch’s and Gizmodo’s coverage so far, I’m not alone:
Gizmodo writer Dixit’s comment is telling, even if he’s joking: You can never shame a company enough.
For pageviews-obsessed media, negativity is the surest way to get the hits. It’s all fun and games. But we deserve better.
One comment above points out a truth that the naval-gazing press tends to miss: average tech consumers care less about originality than holier-than-thou hacks pretending to be journalists.
They care about cost: OMG!!! This Xiaomi phone is sooo much cheaper than that Samsung phone. I’m getting it!
You can multiply that sentiment ten times in Asia, where price sensitivity is so much higher. Sure, Apple may be displeased about Xiaomi’s antics. But Xiaomi isn’t yet expanding to the United States, and that won’t happen soon without strong intellectual property assets.
It still has plenty of room to grow in China, Asia’s biggest market with its own set of rules, and India, which looks certain to be its second biggest market.
So consumers don’t care, Xiaomi stakeholders don’t either, and many tech media readers don’t think this is news at all. Tell me again: what is this all about?