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Apple attacks iPhone UI emulators

Look'n'feel wars... round 99

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Apple is apparently taking a dim view of software developers emulating the bright Mac OS X user interface it's developed for its upcoming iPhone handset. Attempts to post graphics that bring the look of the iPhone to existing Palm OS, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices are being repulsed by legal threats.

Take the case of iPhony, an iPhone-alike launcher application developed for Palm OS devices. Posted online late last week, by Monday it had been withdrawn - well, the downloadable file, at any rate - at the behest of Apple's legal eagles.

Worse, perhaps, the company's attorneys have even threatened news sites that reported on the availability of the iPhone-esque skins, the Sydney Morning Herald alleges. To be fair, like the skins themselves, it's the use of Mac OS X icons that has Apple riled in this case.

Yes, it owns the icons and images of them, and has a right to demand they not be used in products it disapproves of. Websites it's gone after have willy-nilly reposted screenshots of the iPhone-imitating skins without considering the copyright implications.

But since the strength of the iPhone is how it works not how it looks, is all this legal activity really necessary? Dollar to a dime it helps promote the iPhone more than it impacts sales of the device.

Apple has form here, pursuing in the past individuals and companies who've attempted to offer utilities that emulate Mac OS X's Aqua UI and its Dock utility on Windows and Linux machines. It's even got stroppy with folk trying to make older versions of the Mac OS look like Mac OS X.

In March 2005, Google yanked a toolbar utility that operated not unlike Apple's own Dock, apparently at the behest of the Mac maker's intellectual property watchdogs. ®

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