Jobs dubs Google's 'open' Android speak 'disingenuous'

'Smokescreen' for 'fragmented' OS

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Apple cult leader Steve Jobs has hit back at Eric Schmidt over the Google boss' repeated claims that Google is "open" and Apple is "closed."

During a surprise appearance on Apple's quarterly earnings call on Monday afternoon — "I couldn't help dropping by for our first $20bn quarter" — Jobs called Schmidt's characterization "disingenuous," a "smokescreen" meant to hide the real issues surrounding the companies' dueling mobile platforms. When you compare Apple's iOS to Google's Android, Jobs said, the question is not: Who's open and who's closed? The question is: Who's "fragmented" and who's "integrated"?

Hopefully, someone will listen to him. Jobs himself took the open versus closed debate to new depths of meaningless when he told reporters and analysts that "the first thing most of us think about when we hear the word 'open' is Windows."

After appearing on Apple's earning call while apparently munching his last bite of lunch, Jobs read from a scripted speech that took a quick swipe at the RIM BlackBerry, before attacking Google and finally having a go at all sorts of would-be challengers to the Apple iPad. It's unclear whether that lunch munching was meant to have some sort of metaphorical significance.

Jobs began by boasting that during the third quarter, Apple sold 14.1 million iPhones, a 91 per cent jump over the same quarter last year, and he claimed this "handily beat" RIM's 12.1 million BlackBerry sales in its most recent quarter ending in August. "We've now passed RIM and I don't see them catching up to us in the foreseable future," he said. "They must move beyond their area of stength and comfort into the unfamilair territory of trying to become a software platform company. I think it's going to be a challenge for them to create a competitive platform and convince developers to create apps for yet a third software platform after iOS and Android.

"With over 300,000 apps on Apple's app store, RIM has a high mountain ahead of them to climb."

Jobs didn't go so far as to claim that the iPhone is outselling Android phones. But he wants you to think this is a possibility. Late last week, during Google's earnings call, Eric Schmidt said the company is activating over 200,000 Android devices each day, and Jobs responded by saying that Apple is activating an average of 275,000 iOS devices each day over the past 30 days — and that on peak days, it's activating almost 300,000 devices.

Yes, he said "iOS devices" not "iPhones." His numbers include not only iPhones but iPads. For Google, Android is still just a handset OS — at least for the moment.

Jobs then bemoaned the fact that there's "no solid data" on how many Android phones are shipped each quarter. He said he hopes that handset manufacturers would start reporting such numbers soon, and that until this happens, the world can't really know whether Android is outselling the iPhone. "We await to see whether iPhone or Android was the winner in the most recent quarter," he said.

Then he lit into Google over the open-and-closed bit.

Two weeks ago, during an appearance in San Francisco, Eric Schmidt told the world that "Google's core strategy is openness...Ours is a fundamentally open [strategy]. Open internet. Open web. It's how we fundamentally drive everything." And when a reporter asked what all that nonsense meant, Schmidt explained that it meant Google is the anti-Apple.

"The easiest comparison is the Apple model versus the web model...Flash was allegedly a problem [for Apple]. But we love Flash, and Flash has done extremely well on Android. That 's an example of openness. Let the user decide. The user can decide [between] HTML5 or Flash," he said.

"With the Apple model — which works extremely well, as I know as a former Apple board member — you have to use their development tools, their platform, their software, their hardware...If you submit an application, they have to approve it. You have to use their monetization and their distribution. That would not be open. The inverse would be open."

Somewhere along the way, he said that Apple's core strategy was "closedness."

Steve Jobs doesn't like this. "Google loves to characterize Android as open and iOS and iPhone as closed," he said today. "We find this a bit disingenous and clouding the real differences between our two approaches."

According to Jobs, it clouds the issue because "the first thing most of us think about when we hear the word open is Windows" — as in Microsoft Windows. Yes, the operating system built by Bill Gates and company. "[Windows] is available on a variety of devices," Jobs said. "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. And the user is left to figure it all out.

"Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same."

Windows is not the first thing we think of when we hear the word "open." When we hear the word open, we think of a golf tournament. But we see Steve's point.

Jobs went on to say that when TweetDeck recently launched its Twitter client on Android, it had to contend with 100 different version of Android and 244 different handsets. "The multiple hardware and software iterations present developers with a daunting challenge," he said. "Many Android apps work only on selected Android handsets running selected Android versions, and this is for handsets that were shipped less than 12 months ago."

He then compared this to the iPhone, saying that developers must test against only two versions of its OS: the current version and its predecessor.

Then he pointed out that various third-parties will soon be launching their own Android marketplaces, including Amazon, Verizon, and Vodafone. "This is going to be a mess for both users and developers," he said, before pointing out that there's only one app store on the iPhone.

Certainly, it's not a leap to call Apple a closed company. It's as closed as they come. But Steve has an answer here as well. "Even if Google were right and the real issue is closed versus open, it's worth remembering that open systems don't always win," he added, before pointing to Microsoft's ill-fated PlaysForSure music certification program. "[PlaysForSure] used the PC model, which Android uses as well, of separating the software components from the hardware components. Even Microsoft finally abandoned this open strategy in favor of copying Apple's integrated approach with their Zune player, unfortunately leaving their OEMs empty-handed in the process."

He also pointed out that Google had "flirted" with Apple's integrated approached with its Nexus One phone. But, well, we're not sure what his point is.

His larger point is that Apple's "integrated" approach is far superior to Google's "fragmented" approach. "In reality, we think the open versus closed argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real argument, which is what's best for the customer: fragmented versus integrated," he said. "We think Android is very, very fragmented and becoming more fragmented by the day. As you know, Apple strives for the integrated model, so the user isn't forced to be the systems integrator."

"We see tremendous value [in the integrated model]...When selling to users who want things to just work, we believe that integrated will trump fragmented every time."

Yes, the man's arguments are bit muddled. But he's certainly right that Android faces a fragmentation problem. And we'd be very pleased if the world dropped this open and closed nonsense. Thanks to both Apple and Google, the words are now close to meaningless. ®

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