Three reasons Steve Jobs is wrong about Android

During Apple's earnings call yesterday, Steve Jobs went on an extended rant against Android. But Jobs is wrong about Android on every count. Here are three reasons why.

He's wrong about Android customization

One of Jobs' main criticisms is that users will be happier with iPhones because the interface is identical on every iPhone, while on Android phones there are differences.

Here's what he had to say:

"Unlike Windows, where most PCs have the same user interface and run the same apps, many Android OEMs including the two largest, HTC and Motorola, install (custom) user interfaces to differentiate themselves ... Compare this with iPhone, where every handset looks the same."

First of all, there are not major differences between Android phones. The underlying operating system is the same; differences between phones are relatively superficial.

Secondly, his description of the differences between Android phones has another name: consumer choice. As I've written before, Android offers consumers a wider range of choices in phones than does the iPhone, which takes a one-phone-fits-all approach. With Android, you get a choice of form factors, price points, and feature sets. With the iPhone you don't. In a competitive market, choice wins.

He's wrong about fragmentation and developers

One of Jobs' main criticisms of Android is that it's "fragmented," claiming:

"We think Android is very, very fragmented and becomes more so every day. We think this is a huge strength of our approach when compared to Google's. We think integrated will trump fragmented every time."

He went on to say:

"The multiple hardware and software iterations presents developers with a daunting challenge."

Because of that, he claims, developers simply won't want to write software for Android.

He's wrong again. In fact, a recent survey found that smartphone developers favor Android over the iPhone by a substantial margin.

A just completed survey of developers by Appcelerator and IDC found that 58.6% of developers surveyed say that Android has the best long-term outlook, compared to 34.9% who believe that for the iPhone and iPad.

As I noted in my blog about the survey:

Why are developers so bullish on Android? One big reason is that 72% of developers believe that Android "is best positioned to power a large number and variety of connected devices in the future" in the words of the report, compared to 35% who believe that iOS is beter positioned.

He's wrong about Android tablets

Jobs went out of his way to criticize Android-based tablets, saying, according to CNet:

"All these new tablets use Android software, but even Google is telling them not to use the current release, FroYo, for tablets and to wait until next year ... What does it mean when you ignore them and use it anyway?"

"iPad has more than 35,000 apps on the App Store. This new crop of tablets will have near zero ... We think the current crop of tablets will be DOA -- dead on arrival."

He also said that at 7 inches, Android tablets will be too small.

There's may be some truth in what he has to say about the first generation of Android tablets -- tablets will be better off with Android 3.0 (called Gingerbread) than version 2.2 of Android, Froyo. But that can be said about virtually every piece of software and hardware ever released, including iPhones and iPads -- new generations trump old ones.

But Jobs talked about Android 3.0 as if it's off in the distant future. It's not; it's almost here. The AndroidCommunity Web site says that tablets running Android 3.0 will be shown this year, with availability for early next year, and that Android 4.0 will be running on tablets in the second half of 2011.

In addition, at least one prominent analyst says Android tablets will outsell iPads, with iPads outselling Android tablets for a year or two, but then Android tablets taking the lead.

Gene Munster, Senior Research Analyst at Piper Jaffray, said in an interview on Business Insider:

I think it will play very much like the iPhone played out. I think for the first year or so, it's going to be advantage, Apple. But I think that as more of the Android tables come out and get optimized, you're going to see some very stiff competition.

As a category, the tablet is undeniably going to be the winning category in mobile computing in the next decade, but as far as the market share win, ultimately we think that Apple won't have the majority of the market share. It will probably be with Android-based tablets.

Jobs took time out during the earnings call to criticize Android for a simple reason -- he's worried that it will overtake the iPhone and iPad, as many analysts and reports believe. But his reality distortion field won't work this time. Over time, Android devices will outsell iPhones and iPads.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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