Android VP Gundotra Takes Gloves Off vs. Apple at Google I/O

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-05-22

Android VP Gundotra Takes Gloves Off vs. Apple at Google I/O

Anyone holding onto any doubt that Google and Apple aren't at war for the mobile Web can rid themselves of that illusion after Google I/O May 20.

A senior Google executive took several verbal shots at Apple and its CEO Steve Jobs for being a closed, controlling unit that is cancerous in its lack of support for technologies such as Flash.

Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering for Google's mobile efforts and a company spokesperson proving to have a penchant for making bold statements, opened his keynote about Android 2.2 with a story that cuts to the heart of the differences between Apple's and Google's approaches to the mobile Web.

Gundotra met with Google's Android mobile operating system creator Andy Rubin, who told him that it was critical to create a free, open operating system that would enable innovation of the stack. Rubin also told him that if "Google did not act we faced a Draconian future, a future where one man, one company, one device, one carrier would be our only choice."

Gundotra then cued a slide of a poster of 1984 with the title, "Not The Future We Want," a move to turn Apple's own 1984, anti-IBM commercial against Apple in reference to the iPhone. He told the audience, which applauded, "That's a future we don't want."

Overdramatic? Perhaps. Ham-handed? Sure. Aggressive for Google? Absolutely. And this happened 3 minutes into the show. Over the course of his entire presentation, Gundotra took several more stabs at the company that revolutionized the smartphone business for consumers in the United States.

The differences between the iPhone platform and Android are legion. There is one iPhone, upgraded by generation, with the iPhone 4.0 coming next month. Android boasts 60 different smartphones and tablets from 59 carriers and 21 OEMs in 48 countries.

More than 100,000 Android devices are being activated each day. For sheer universality, it's hard to top Android, and it's one of the main reasons the OS is making headway against the iPhone and even RIM's BlackBerry.

Gundotra also moved to dispatch Jobs' claim in April that users find Web content through applications, not search.

"On the desktop, search is where it's at," Jobs said. "That's where the money is. But on a mobile device, search hasn't happened. Search is not where it's at; people aren't searching on a mobile device like they do on a desktop. What's happening is they're spending all of their time in apps."

Noting that Google is a "company driven by data, not by opinions," Gundotra said that the data shows there has been a 5x growth in mobile search since 2008 across Android, iPhone and all phones where Google search is used.

Gundotra's mini-crusade versus Apple continued in demos of Android 2.2. Introducing the new cloud-to-device messaging API, Gundotra said, "This is not a push notification API designed to compensate for the lack of basic functionality like multitasking in the operating system."

Gundotras Many Jabs at Apple Highlighted on Stage

Many of the 5,000 or so in the I/O audience laughed and cheered at Gundotra's obvious reference to Apple's lack of multitasking, which is actually coming next month in iPhone 4.0.

Other features, tethering and portable hotspot, enable users to leverage their Android 2.2 smartphones as mini connectivity hubs for laptops, tablet computers and other WiFi-enabled devices.

Gundotra demonstrated these features on an Android 2.2-based Nexus One, enabling the smartphone to connect to Apple's iPad. This again drew applause from developers in the audience as AT&T won't support tethering for Apple's iPhone and iPad.

The executive also got applause for the way he couched his support of Adobe's Flash, the cross-platform media technology Apple declined to support on the iPhone and iPad.

"It turns out that on the Internet, people use Flash. And part of being open means you are inclusive, rather than exclusive, and you are open to innovation," Gundotra said.

Then he showed the Nickelodeon Website that wouldn't load on the iPad because it was created in Flash. He then accessed the Website on his Android 2.2-based Nexus One and it ran smoothly because the new OS supports Flash.

"That's what openness means. It's really fun to work with other folks in the ecosystem to meet the needs of users, much nicer than just saying no."

Gundotra later tackled the advertising issue, slashing at Apple's forthcoming iAd platform by noting Google has hundreds of thousands of advertisers.

"We're not working with a handful of partners and charging them $1 million each to be part of our program," he said. "We can be your advertising partner."

Ironically, the Federal Trade Commission would OK Google's bid for mobile ad provider AdMob one day later. That paves the way for Google to ratchet up its in-application ad strategy to meet iAd head on.

For all of the coffee shop meetings Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Apple's Jobs might hold in public, Gundotra's points set the stage for the next leg of Google's war with Apple.

Schmidt may lay claim to Jobs as a friend, but these companies' mobile philosophies hold oil-and-water contrasts. It's hard not to see Google and Apple as the Microsoft and Apple for the mobile Web war.


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