Competition Spurs Innovation: MacBook Pro Edition

A blog about business and economics.
June 11 2012 2:03 PM

Competition Spurs Innovation: MacBook Pro Edition

Hot on the heels of its patent for wedge-shaped computers, Apple announced an old-school alternative approach of building a better mousetrap. It's branded as a MacBook Pro, but it's sleeker than the existing Pros (though not quite as sleek as an air). It has two USB 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt connection, and most of all a 2,880 x 1,800 "retina" display. 

It's a reminder, I think, of how damaging anti-competitive patenting can be to innovation. The whole point here is that while Apple's MacBook Airs were a pathbreaking product when they came out, over time it's proven possible for other manufacturers to make Ultrabooks that capture much of their appeal for the Windows audience. To stay ahead of the laptop curve, Apple needs to keep innovating rather than come up with a handful of really good ideas and then blocking the world from imitating them. For a whole variety of emotional and financial reasons it's obvious why Apple executives wish competitors could be stopped from mimicking some of their key features, but the world is much better when it's a place where market leaders always need to strive to do better.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.