Sales of Android devices might be starting to outpace sales of iPhones — but that’s just a blip, according to Steve Jobs. “We are confident [our strategy] will triumph over Google’s,” the Apple CEO says.
Jobs made the unusual move of jumping on an earnings call to spell out why he thinks Apple’s iOS devices will eventually triumph over those powered by Google’s Android operating system. It comes down to this: The Apple universe serves up an “integrated” experience that users find supremely easy — and that’s headache-free for app developers to work with.
“Google loves to characterize Android as ‘open’ and iOS and iPhone as ‘closed,’” Jobs said, referring to Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s comments last week on his company’s earnings call. “We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches.”
You say “closed.” We say “integrated.”
Schmidt trumpeted the Android ecosystem as open since it is free to any handset manufacturer that wants to use it on their phones. Only Apple devices may use the iOS operating system. Similarly, anyone is allowed to build a store to sell apps for Android devices, whereas Apple retains exclusive control over distribution of apps for the iPhone and iPad through the iTunes store.
But what Google calls “open,” Jobs called “fragmented.” Handset manufacturers using Android don’t all end up with the same user-facing interface. Rather, the interfaces end up customized for individual phones, so users have to relearn how their phones work when they hop from one to another. Apple devices basically all work the same way. Similarly, app developers can’t build a one-size-fits all program for all Android phones. Instead, they have to tweak their software to make sure it works for each device.
“Twitter client TwitterDeck [sic] recently launched their app for Android,” Jobs said. “They reported that they had to contend with more than a hundred different versions of Android software on 244 different handsets. The multiple different software iterations presented developers with a daunting challenge.”
“We think the open vs. closed issue is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue, which is what’s best for the customer: fragmented vs. integrated,” Jobs added. “When selling to users who want their devices to just work, we believe integrated will trump fragmented, every time.”
Blackberry has “a hard mountain to climb”
And as for Research In Motion, makers of BlackBerry? They’re all but done for unless they change their focus, Jobs said. The iPhone sold 14.1 million units in its past quarter, compared to 12.1 million Blackberrys in RIM’s most recent quarter. Jobs said he doesn’t think RIM will catch up again. “They must move beyond their area of strength and comfort into the unfamiliar territory of trying to become a software platform company,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a challenge for them to create a competitive platform and to convince developers to create apps for a third software platform.”
It’s hard to argue with Jobs’ vision of a Utopian paradise where users and developers can breathe easy. And yet the sales figures seem to challenge the notion that we all opt for “integration” above “open.” Will the Apple experience win out? Or will a sizeable number of users—and developers—continue to choose Android over the iPhone? Perhaps more importantly, is this the beginning of a long-running nerd fight between Schmidt and Jobs?