The Steve Jobs empire strikes back against Android

by Howard Wolinsky

In an unusual move, CEO Steve Jobs took off his gloves at the Apple’s Q3 earnings call and came out swinging Monday in a five-minute rant, especially targeting Google (GOOG) and its Android OS for smartphones.

And Android apparently resorted to a tweet to fight back in the fast-developing, overheated smartphone wars.

Macworld’s David Chartier noted that  most of Jobs’ comments were about Google and its Android smartphone OS. A complete transcript is available.

Chartier said Jobs “questioned the reality of Android market-share statistics and attacked the search giant for marketing its operating system as ‘open’ versus Apple's ‘closed’ iOS.”

"Last week, (Google CEO) Eric Schmidt reiterated that they are activating around 200,000 Android devices per day," Jobs said. For comparison, Apple (AAPL) has activated around 275,000 iOS devices per day on average for the last 30 days, with a peak of almost 300,000 iOS devices per day on a few of those days.

IPhone has been knocked for its closed OS while Google has been praised for its open OS. Jobs told analysts he wasn’t having any of this.

"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," Jobs said.

Jobs talks up Windows while dissing Android

A generation after the PC and Mac wars, Jobs now speaks to the efficiency of Microsoft (MSFT) software compared to what he describes Android’s scattershot approach to operating mobile devices.

"The first thing most of us think about when we hear the word ‘open' is Windows, which is available on a variety of devices,” he said. “Unlike Windows, however, where most PCs have the same user interface and run the same apps, Android is very fragmented. Many Android [manufacturers], 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 out. Compare this to iPhone, where every handset works the same."

Jobs also said: “We think the open vs. closed 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."

The Android strikes back

Apparently, in his first tweet since reactivating his Twitter account, Andy Rubin, father of Android, fired back in geek tweet.

“the definition of open: “mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make”

MG Siegler of TechCrunch commented: “For those keeping score at home, that’s Rubin using some geeked-out lingo to explain exactly what open is to Steve Jobs. In other words: Android. Well played.

“Rubin has about 100 followers right now. That should skyrocket shortly.”

More in defense of Android

Quentyn Kineme in Phandroid came to Android’s defense: “Folks need to realize that Android is open in ways that everyone doesn’t see. Even Steve Jobs himself is confused, as he says Android’s ‘openness’ is compromised by the unfortunate effects of fragmentation brought on by carrier and manufacturer customizations. If Android weren’t open, Jobs, why would Google allow the use of the operating system however anyone sees fit to their personal and business needs?”

BlackBerry also on Jobs’ hit list

While he was at it, Jobs took out after Research In Motion (RIMM) and its BlackBerry.

Chartier said Jobs indicated RIM and its BlackBerrys are fading in Apple’s rearview mirror: “In the just-concluded quarter, Apple sold 14.1 million iPhones, compared to 12.1 million BlackBerries sold in RIM's most recently-reported quarter, which ended in August. ‘We've now passed RIM, and I don't see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future,’ Jobs said. ‘They must move beyond their area of strength and comfort into the unfamiliar 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 to convince developers to create apps for yet a third software platform, after iOS and Android... RIM has a high mountain ahead of them to climb.’”

Brian Barrett said in Gizmodo that RIM is really a proxy for long-time former/current Apple nemesis Microsoft: “It's easy enough to pick on BlackBerry, but that's not the only company Jobs is talking about here. Not really. Replace ‘RIM’ with ‘Microsoft,’ and you get a pretty good idea of how Apple sees—or wants developers to see—Windows Phone 7. But let's not forget that if there's one thing Microsoft knows, it's software. That makes them a very credible threat.

Next on the Jobs’ target list? iPad’s competitors

Daniel Ionescu reported in PC World: “Android tablets, BlackBerry's PlayBook and Samsung's Galaxy Tab? Forget them!...Jobs explained why, in his view, ‘7-inch tablets are tweeners,’ why Google's Android OS is unfit for current tablets, and why the iPad is still the king of the hill.”