Steve Jobs’ outburst during Monday’s Apple quarterly conference call might have made for the express purpose of entertaining hardened tech exec watchers. After all, few things beat one of the world’s most famously cantankerous CEO’s tearing into rivals and showing off a bullish side he does well to keep hidden during those keynote speeches.
But it’s telling that Jobs reserved the bulk of his trash talk for Google Android, covering off both its growing preponderance in the smartphone space, as well as laying into seven-inch tablets that will come packing the open source OS.
Some of what Jobs had to say about Android was on the money. His comment that Apple was for integration not fragmentation does point to a critical issue with Android. The increasing number of devices, both phones and tablets, using different versions of the OS, is becoming a real problem.
The Xperia X10 is still waiting on a boost from 1.6 to 2.1, tablets are said to need 3.0, not 2.2, to work properly, and the insistence on 3G as a prerequisite for Android Market, all lead to serious levels of consumer confusion from which the iPhone does not suffer.
Admittedly, the iPad remains stranded on an older version of iOS, although the fix for this is imminent. But there’s undoubtedly a level of desperation in Jobs’ voice when discussing Android’s continued push towards smartphone domination. He admits that Android took the lead from iOS during June, but put this down to the iPhone 4’s “transition period”.
But NPD stats from way back in May showed Android taking 28 per cent of market share, with the iPhone behind on 21 per cent. Apple questioned those figures, but Nielsen stats released earlier this month claimed Android sales in the six months to August stood at 32 per cent of smartphones, while the iPhone lingered back on 25 per cent. Throw in Gartner Research’s claim that by 2012 Android would be sharing top smartphone spot with Symbian and Apple’s claims to supremacy are a tad unlikely.
It goes without saying that over 14 million iPhones sold in the three months to the end of September is still mighty impressive. But Jobs clearly has deep concerns about Android intruding on his iPad patch too.
While he slated 7-inch tablets, calling them “tweeners”, and citing Google’s insistence that tablet makers wait for Android 3.0 before putting the OS on their devices, there’s no denying the clamour for Android on tablets is there. And not just the Galaxy Tab, but the string of rivals coming at CES in January.
While the iPad’s position at the top of the pile is secure, Android’s spread across a slew of devices does pose a problem for Apple. Of course, there are fragmentation issues with it, but when implemented well and with top-end hardware, it’s hard to argue against Google’s OS.
Naturally, there’s a place for both iOS and Android in the market. But Steve Jobs’ outburst proves that Google’s remarkably swift ascent in the mobile space has got everyone’s favourite turtleneck wearer rattled.