Tim Cook’s has hardly had time to digest the fact that Steve Jobs is once again on medical leave, meaning his hands are now on the tiller at Apple. But just because Jobs is taking a leave of absence doesn’t mean Apple doesn’t have controversial things to say about its key rivals, especially after a quarterly earnings conference call which has shown them to be tearing it up when it comes to iPhone and iPad sales.
The choice quote from Cook came as he was asked by journalists about iPad rivals. Android and Windows got both barrels, but it was his comments about the slew of new Honeycomb efforts shown at CES a couple of weeks back that really got people’s dander up. None more so than when he proclaimed: “Today they’re vapor [sic]”.
Childish? Perhaps. Provocative? Undoubtedly. Correct? Certainly. Because while there’s no denying that the Android slates on show in Vegas were all class, and that Honeycomb itself comes laden with promise for a tablet battle in the future, not a single one has been priced or dated.
So whatever Motorola, LG and Toshiba say, Apple can simply point to the fact it sold over seven million iPads in the three months to December 25th. Only the Samsung Galaxy Tab can have any kind of claim to rival the iPad in reality at this moment.
Cook’s choice of words is harsh. But he has highlighted a wider problem that Google and its Open Handset Alliance partners are going to face in the next few months. Google has yet to even officially unveil a final build of Honeycomb and no one is quite clear whether it’s been built just for tablets or whether it will also reside on the very best new Android smartphones. This plays straight into the hands of those who say fragmentation is going to cause Google a big headache in 2011.
Add to this the fact that no one will say when their iPad rival is out and you can see why Apple isn’t feeling the pressure (in public at least). Its forthcoming tie-up with News Corp with The Daily will help cement it as the premier media platform when it comes to tablets. The longer rivals leave it to get into the market, the easier it will be for Apple to sew up more new custom and keep its position as number one in the tablet arena. And knowing Apple, the iPad 2 won’t be some small upgrade, but take the same approach as the iPhone 3G: namely offering affordable deals in order to flood the market and leave competitors reeling for months.
Honeycomb tablets have stacks of potential. But Cook’s claims aren’t far off the mark. Until we can walk into a store and play with equivalent Android slates next to the iPad, then the latter will reign supreme. Expect plenty of abuse from Moto, Google and co in return. But until they release their kit, Apple is still in prime position.