by Tom Kaneshige

Steve Jobs Sets Off War of Words

Oct 19, 2010
MobileSmall and Medium Business

Apple took shots at Google, RIM and Twitter - and they responded in kind.

Abstract Apple logo behind rainy glass
Credit: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Steve Jobs showed up unexpectedly during Apple’s earnings call earlier this week with his game face on. He took shots at Google Android and RIM, calling their coming 7-inch tablets as “tweeners” that will be “DOA,” or dead on arrival. He said Android has created a fragmented smartphone market with a closed platform.

“Many Android OEMs, including the two largest, HTC and Motorola, install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience,” Jobs said. “The user’s left to figure it all out. Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same.”


Jobs added that Twitter client TweetDeck had to deal with more than a hundred different versions of Android software on 244 different handsets when developing an app for Android. “The multiple hardware and software iterations present developers with a daunting challenge,” he said.

What about venerable smartphone maker RIM? “We sold 41.1 million iPhones in the quarter … and it handily beats RIM’s 12.1 million BlackBerrys sold, in their most recent quarter ending in August,” Jobs said. “We’ve now passed RIM, and I don’t see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future.”

To put it bluntly, Jobs was in a fiery mood—and his words quickly ignited rebuttals from Google, RIM and even Twitter.

Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM said: “For those of us who live outside of Apple’s distortion field, we know that 7-inch tablets will actually be a big portion of the market, and we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real Web experience. We also know that while Apple’s attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple, developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of Web sites that use Flash. We think many customers are getting tired of being told what to think by Apple.”

My take: Score one for Jobs.

The 7-inch tablet won’t be a hit in the market because, for starters, it’s too small to type on. Also, it’s too big to be portable like a smartphone. If you have to carry it in your backpack, why not a 10-inch tablet? Jury is still out on how much 7-inch tablets will undercut the 10-inch iPad’s price.

With regards to developers wanting more options, I haven’t heard a single iOS app developer complain. In fact, iOS—along with iAd—has created a gold rush for developers.

Lastly, Balsillie says customers are getting tired of being told what to think by Apple. I don’t see any signs of this, either. Just look at the quarter-after-quarter, record-breaking sales in Macs, iPhones and iPads, not to mention Apple’s sky high customer service ratings.

Google executive and Android Founder Andy Rubin tweeted: “the definition of open: ‘mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git:// ; repo sync ; make,'” which PC magazine deciphered as a list of commands needed to start creating a copy of Android on a computer running Linux.

Presumably, this tweet is meant to show how open Android is compared to iOS.

Earlier, Iain Dodsworth, CEO of TweetDeck, also tweeted: “Did we at any point say it was a nightmare developing on Android? Errr nope, no we didn’t. It wasn’t.” Dodsworth added: “We only have 2 guys developing on Android TweetDeck so that shows how small an issue fragmentation is.”

My take: a wash.

Let’s face it, Android is highly fragmented among smartphones. Developers have told me that they have to make tweaks because of this. On the Android tablet side, there is confusion and contention on which OS version tablet makers will use.

But does this mean Android is more closed, and Apple more open? Jobs said that Google executives were “disingenuous” characterizing iOS and iPhone as closed. He contends that this is a “smokescreen to hide the real issue of what is best for the customer—integrated versus fragmented.”

To say that Apple iOS is more open than Android, however, is an incredible contortion. “I think what Jobs said about openness was a little self-serving,” says Gartner analyst Van Baker.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for