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You might be sick of the pundits falling all over themselves to pour love on the iPad. You may be sick of the Apple fondleslab. But at least you can recognize one when you see one.

The same can't be said for tablets from other big name outfits. Apparently, competitors have reached the breaking points of their creative imaginations as they try to out-Apple Apple.

HP claims that Research in Motion (RIM) is copying HP's webOS-enabled TouchPad with its Blackberry PlayBook, a device based on an operating system from QNX Software, bought by RIM in April last year.

Neither the webOS-based TouchPad or the PlayBook have shipped, but both companies have been bigging-up their slabs.

RIM chief executive Jim Baisille recently told the gargantuan Mobile Word Congress that RIM would "shame" Apple's iPad, the progenitor of all things slate-like. He did so without actually using the "A" word.

But Laptop reports that RIM's senior vice president for business and platform marketing Jeff McDowell has laid out a strong defense of the PlayBook following a dig by a fellow product-marketing monkey at HP.

HP TouchPad director of product marketing Jon Oakes apparently said: "From what we’ve seen in the market, there are some uncanny similarities. It’s a fast innovation cycle and a fast imitation cycle in this market, so we just know that we have the creative engine here to continue to build on what we have, and we’ll keep innovating, we’ll keep honing and those guys hopefully will continue to see the value in it and keep following us by about a year."

With his response, McDowell takes the long way around the computer-as-car metaphor to explain away the attack:

I feel that we set out from the ground up to define a user experience that we felt would delight our customers, and we landed in a place that may look like other competitive devices. But there was no intention and no preconceived notion that this is what we want to end up looking like. In fact, I think QNX had that design lined up before we even started working with them.

You know, cars over time end up looking a lot alike because you put them through a wind tunnel, and when you’re trying to come up with the best coefficient to drag ratio, there’s one optimized shape that gets the best wind resistance, right? Well, when you’re trying to optimize user experience that juggles multitasking, multiple apps open at once, and on a small screen, you’re going to get people landing on similar kinds of designs.

Maybe the competition really is out of ideas – that is, except for the ones that they're stealing from Apple. ®

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