Dear Steve Jobs: You're wrong. Again.

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Dear Steve Jobs: You're Wrong. Again.

Dear Steve Jobs,

Congratulations! You guys sure made a lot of money this last quarter. Twenty-some billion, you said during your earnings call? Damn, buddy. That's an impressive figure.

Call me crazy, though, but after hearing your little piece of the call, I sure didn't get the feeling that I was listening to a man who was confident about his company's position. Maybe it's because of the fact that you spent the majority of your time frantically knocking Android -- you know, tossing out unsubstantiated reasons as to why practically every analyst is wrong about its pending mobile dominance. To me, Steve, that comes across as desperate and defensive. It feels kind of like that pointless speech you see a political candidate making toward the end of an election, when everyone knows he stands no chance of winning but he keeps spouting off hyperbole-laden rhetoric to the point where it almost becomes comical. Clearly, the fact that your company is doing well financially isn't enough for you, my friend; you want to think you're the top dog forever, and you want the world to agree.

(The always-entertaining Fake Steve Jobs sums things up brilliantly: "I'm not worried about Android. That's why I keep talking about it all the time.")

One thing you really like doing, Steve, is throwing out big numbers and pooh-poohing everyone else's math. You did it during your very special event last month, and you did it again this week. Last time, you suggested that Google's numbers probably included upgrades in addition to new purchases, and that's why they were so high. Google quickly came forward and knocked down that charge. So this time, you just went with vague language in an attempt to discredit Android's success. I know you're good at word games, Steve, and misleading people without technically lying (I didn't make that politician comparison on accident) -- but let's look closely at what you're actually trying to claim.

First, when you say that Apple has more daily activations than Android, your figures include all iOS devices: iPhones, iPads, and iPods. The Android figures we've been looking at so far focus solely on phones. As I said back in September, talking about sales of smartphones powered by a particular platform and talking about combined sales of phones, MP3 players, and tablets are two very different things. (And the "but there's only one iPhone and a lot of Android phones" argument, by the way, is meaningless. We're looking at one smartphone platform vs. another, and these are the ways Apple and Google have chosen to present their products. If Apple sold 30 iPhone models, each one would undoubtedly have a lower individual sales number than the one-size-fits-all iPhone 4. Similarly, if Google came out with only a single Android phone, its sales would be far higher than any one phone in the platform's current multi-device ecosystem.)

That aside, Google's 200,000-activations-a-day figure is sorely outdated. All signs point to that number being far higher by this point. Not that it even really matters, given what we just discussed. And anyway, there's no shortage of firm market evidence illustrating the real picture of how the market is shifting. I know, I know -- your "magic" is more important than any exhaustive set of statistics. But for the rest of us, this real-world stuff is pretty telling.

You also spent some time criticizing Google's description of Android as "open." I realize the word "open" makes you cringe, Steve -- I even heard you don't allow it to be said within your home -- but once again, you're tossing out bold claims without any true meaning behind them. I think Google Android chief Andy Rubin best addressed your argument with his recent tweet:

the definition of open: "mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git:// ; repo sync ; make"

As for your teensy bit of "evidence" -- you know, the story you told about TweetDeck? (Or "TwitterDeck," as you called it.) As usual, you twisted language around to fit your personal requirements. You painted TweetDeck's description of the numerous customizations of Android as a bad thing, saying the company "had to contend" with the "daunting challenge" of numerous ROMs and software configurations.

When presenting its data, here's what TweetDeck's team actually said:

From our perspective, it's pretty cool to have our app work on such a wide variety of devices and Android OS variations. 

The company's founder has gone on to directly address your mischaracterization on Twitter, saying:

Did we at any point say it was a nightmare developing on Android? Errr nope, no we didn't. It wasn't.

And also:

We only have 2 guys developing on Android TweetDeck so that shows how small an issue fragmentation is

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Steve: Android is open. But open means different things. It's the very nature of an open system that allows for the numerous varieties and customizations of Android. It's up to the customer to decide what he or she wants.

You may be right that most users don't care about the principles behind open vs. closed. But plenty of users do like the practical advantages that come with an open ecosystem. They like being able to load any application they want on their phones, for example -- not just ones that you and your porn police think are appropriate. They like being able to pick out a phone with hardware that meets their needs, be it a large screen, a physical keyboard, or an antenna that actually allows them to reliably place calls. And yes, many people like being able to make their devices look and perform the way they want. As I've said countless times, a cookie-cutter home screen with simple rows of static icons isn't for everyone.

The same logic applies to the "problem" you described with multiple app markets, Steve: It isn't a problem. Intraplatform competition will only lead to richer and more diverse options for customers. Outside of your walled Apple universe, you know, most markets -- virtual or otherwise -- do allow people to buy stuff from multiple providers. Choice doesn't lead to chaos.

Android Power Twitter

This letter's getting a bit long, Steve, so I'll just mention one more thing, to borrow your phrase. You say that the true strength of your product compared to Android is that it "just works." I helped a friend set up her new iPhone last weekend. First, we had to download and install your bulky, bloated, and mandatory iTunes software to her computer. Then we had to go track down the original sources for all of her music, because her old iPod had been configured on a different PC -- so iTunes wouldn't let us pull any of the music off of it. Once we'd reacquired everything we could find, we imported all the songs into iTunes. Of course, her playlists were gone, since they were locked down on her old iPod and unavailable to us, so we spent half an hour fixing album and artist names so she could access her music that way. Finally, we synced iTunes to her phone, and -- more than 90 minutes later -- were done.

When I put music on my Android phone, I plug the phone into a PC and drag-and-drop files over as if I were using a flash drive. That's it. If I later want to load them onto a different computer, I plug my phone in there and drag-and-drop the files in the other direction. I could use an iTunes-like interface if I wanted to, of course, but I'd rather not. You see, there are no restrictions as to how I manage and use my own property. It's my phone, it's my music, and I do with it as I please.

That's what I call power, Steve. That's what I call a device "just working."



P.S. That was a nice black turtleneck you had on the other day. You should really consider wearing those more often.

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway.

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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