The Hustle

Sherlocking, explained

You might assume “sherlocking” means using deductive reasoning skills, and that’d probably be true most of the time — but when it comes to Apple, in particular, that’s not the case.

Sherlocking is when Apple introduces a new feature that renders a third-party tool irrelevant.

How it started

Mac OS 8 and 9’s Sherlock feature could search for content on a user’s computer, but with OS X, it could also pull info from the internet using plug-ins, per How-To Geek.

In 2001, developer Dan Wood made Watson, a complementary $30 app that expanded what Sherlock could pull — movie showtimes, exchange rates, weather reports, and more.

But when Apple unveiled Mac OS X 10.2, Sherlock could do nearly everything Watson could. Wood claims Steve Jobs himself called, comparing devs like Wood to someone pumping a handcar along railroad tracks — tracks Apple owned.

From that point on…

… Apple upending a third-party tool has been known as “sherlocking.” Other examples:

Apple isn’t alone in this, and the term has been used when other large companies do it — like when Google dropped a volume mixer akin to EarTrumpet.

In some cases…

… new features may simply be the natural progression of a company’s offerings.

Yet many smaller companies, including Luna Display maker Astropad and multiple health-monitoring companies, say Apple took meetings with them first or, worse, poached employees or tried to invalidate their patents.

Apple is frequently under antitrust scrutiny from regulators worldwide. In the US:

But what will regulators say?

BTW: Astropad published some tips for sherlocked companies.

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