Jobs Rips Google Android Open Model as Smokescreen

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-10-19

Jobs Rips Google Android Open Model as Smokescreen

If the gloves between Google and Apple weren't off already, they sure are now.

Responding to Google CEO Eric Schmidt's definition of Apple's iPhone ecosystem as a closed platform, Apple CEO Steve Jobs lashed out at Google's Android mobile operating system model on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call Oct. 18.

Apple posted revenues of $20.34 billion, and a net quarterly profit of $4.31 billion. Apple also sold 14.1 million iPhones for the quarter, buoyed by sales of the iPhone 4 that launched in June.

With the record iPhone sales card in his deck, Jobs offered a six-minute, scripted screed in which he called Google's claims that Android is open source a "smokescreen."

Jobs echoed a frequent criticism of Android by industry analysts and media when he noted that Android's openness is a fallacy because hardware manufacturers and carriers take the OS code and impose their own restrictions and proprietary technologies on top of the phones Android powers.

For example, Motorola puts the Motoblur user interface on its Android smartphones, while HTC Sense is another proprietary UI. Carriers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint put their own custom applications on their Android devices-applications people haven't asked for.

By contrast, consumers get what they expect when they pay for an iPhone: an opportunity to download their choice any of the 300,000 verified applications from Apple's App Store.

Jobs' rant against Google starts around the 15-minute mark of the earnings call, which readers can listen to here. Here is an excerpt from Jobs' impassioned speech:

"Google loves to characterize Android as "open," and iOS and iPhone as "closed." We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches. The first thing most of us think about when we hear the word "open" is Windows, which is available on a variety of devices. Unlike Windows, however, where most PCs have the same user interface and run the same apps, Android is very fragmented. Many Android OEMs, including the two largest, HTC and Motorola, install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience. The user's left to figure it all out. Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same [way].

"Twitterdeck [he meant TweetDeck] recently launched their app for Android. They reported that they had to contend with more than a hundred different versions of Android software on 244 different handsets. The multiple hardware and software iterations present developers with a daunting challenge. Many Android apps work only on selected Android handsets, running selected Android versions. ... Compare this with iPhone, where there are two versions of the software, the current and the most recent predecessor, to test against."

Jobs also noted that Amazon, Verizon and Vodafone have all announced that they are creating their own app stores for Android, further fragmenting the Android marketplace. "This is going to be a mess for both users and developers.

"Contrast this with Apple's integrated App Store, which offers users the easiest to use, largest app store in the world, preloaded on every iPhone. Apple's app store has over three times as many apps as Google's marketplace, and offers developers one-stop shopping to get their apps to market easily, and get paid swiftly."

Dissecting the Jobsian Rant


Jobs also argued that-even if Google were fairly portraying Android versus iPhone as an open-vs.-closed argument-open systems don't always win.

He pointed to Microsoft's "PlaysForSure" music strategy, which leveraged the same model Android uses of separating hardware from software. When this failed, Microsoft aped Apple's iPod strategy with the Zune.

"In reality," Jobs continued, "we think the open versus closed argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue, which is, -What's best for the customer-fragmented vs. integrated?' We think Android is very, very fragmented, and becoming more fragmented by the day. And as you know, Apple strives for the integrated model so that the user isn't forced to be the systems integrator. We see tremendous value at having Apple, rather than our users, be the systems integrator. We think this a huge strength of our approach compared to Google's: When selling the users who want their devices to just work, we believe that integrated will trump fragmented every time."

"We also think that our developers [can] be more innovative if they can target a singular platform, rather than a hundred variants. They can put their time into innovative new features, rather than testing on hundreds of different handsets. So we are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as "closed." And we are confident that it will triumph over Google's fragmented approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as "open."

Jobs' words, written with the aplomb of a political speech writer, fell like cannon balls on Google, which has heard the criticisms that Android's fragmentation threatens its entire ecosystem.

The words also came three weeks after Google's Schmidt, a casual friend of Jobs, took time to define Android as open and iPhone as closed at the TechCrunch Disrupt event.

"Google's core strategy is openness. Other companies, notably Apple, have a core strategy of closed-ness," Schmidt said.

Schmidt said that developers of iOS, Apple's mobile OS, must use Apple's development tools to build apps for Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad tablet.

Jobs made a solid case for why his integrated approach provides safety and comfort from the Wild West that Android has become.

But there are no wrongs and rights in this Google vs. Apple rivalry that's laced with hard facts and opinions ensconced in religion.

Google and Apple have two markedly different approaches for the same goal: control over the mobile Web and its advertising riches.

Google officials announced Oct. 14 that the company's mobile ad business is operating at a run-rate of $1 billion a year. It will be interesting to see whether that will grow under the aegis of Android.

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