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A clone is an object that is the exact duplicate or replica of another object with the same characteristics and properties.
It also refers to something that is made to closely resemble an original object but is not exact in every way, as in the case of cell phone clones, which look like higher-end products but have reduced quality. In this type of instance, clones are also known as imitations.
A clone refers to hardware or software.
With hardware, a clone is a derogatory term that means "close but not quite" or an outright "copy" of lesser quality. Hardware clones are often made by stealing original designs or through reverse engineering.
In any case, the result is often of lesser quality, as the cloner markets the product as the original - right down to the packaging - to ride its popularity through customer deception. This is hardware piracy.
An early example of cloning was the first IBM PC, where rival companies like Dell and Compaq began selling comparable versions at lower costs, which also helped lower computer costs.
Similarly, software clones are created to ride the popularity of a product's original marketing. For example, Zynga's social farming game, FarmVille, was popularized on Facebook and quickly cloned by other developers that employed similar features and mechanics but altered visual aspects just enough to avoid lawsuits.
Games in the same genre can even be considered clones of earlier games because of similar gameplay mechanics and visuals.