Internet & Tech

Spot the difference

A homegrown iPad clone, and a search engine that may look familiar

Spot the difference

Seen that typeface before?

While the world is going gaga over Apple’s yet-to-be-released iPad, a Chinese counterfeiter is claiming that it came out with its own version of the tablet computer… six months ago.

Great Loong Brother Industrial, a Shenzhen-based shanzhai (“bandit”) electronics manufacturer, insists that the company has been selling the product for months – and long before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad at the end of January.

And as it turns out, Great Loong has been selling a tablet computer called the P88 since last July. The website even featured it back in October.

Wu Xiaolong, executive director of the shanzhai manufacturer, also told Guangzhou Daily News that the firm has already signed deals to ship the P88 to France, Germany, Japan and the US.

“Anyone who sees the P88 will realise the iPad looks exactly the same,” says Wu. “We talked to a lawyer and we’re preparing material for a lawsuit,” he told the New York Times.

For years multinational firms have complained about small electronics firms in China knocking off their products with labels such as “Nckia” and “Sumsung”. The cheap counterfeits are especially popular in rural areas of China because they look like the real thing but cost a lot less.

By challenging Apple, Great Loong is now making a bolder statement. Thanks to technological advances, other shanzhai makers are also trying to pioneer products of their own design.

Great Loong claims to have developed its tablet computer entirely on its own.

“The P88’s appearance, system and mode are all accomplished by our own engineers,” Wu proudly declares. “For this thing we are not shanzhai, because we were first,” he adds.

Apple has declined to comment.

So how does the P88 stack up against its American rival?

Well, for a start, it is about a pound heavier than the iPad. The P88 also has much shorter battery life at just over an hour of active use, compared to iPad‘s stated battery life of 10 hours.

Both devices offer touchscreens with black borders and of a similar size, at 10.2 inches for the P88 and 9.7 inches for the iPad.

The P88 is priced at about $440, a bit cheaper than the basic iPad model at $499.

Another example of shanzhai’s growing prowess: days after Google announced that it might be forced to withdraw from the online search business in China, a website appeared bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Google site.

The shanzhai-style Goojje was set up in 36 hours by a college student, for only Rmb30,000 ($4,380). The site’s name is a Chinese pun that can be translated as “Google’s big sister”.

On Goojje’s home page, the lettering of the logo shares nearly identical font and colouring with Google’s main search page, but with the addition of a blue paw-print that seems to have been inspired by China’s homegrown search engine giant Baidu.

Not that the college student wants Google to depart China. The Goojje home page features a slogan that says: “Sister was very happy when brother gave up the thought of leaving and stayed for sister.”

In addition to a basic search engine, Goojje includes online discussion forums, a social networking function and a web portal. But experts say the quality of searches is patchy, and produces results by simply combining those of Google and Baidu.

Moreover, Goojje’s ability to search the web has been a tad sporadic because its server has been attacked by hackers, says Shenzhen Daily.

But imitation is not flattery as far as Google is concerned.

Two weeks ago the US search giant sent a cease-and-desist letter to Goojje, demanding the shanzhai-site stop copying its trademarked logo.

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