No, Steve Jobs’ Comments About the Android OS Were Not Refuted!

October 20th, 2010

There’s a report in AppleInsider, published Tuesday morning, which claims that the CEO of TweetDeck, publisher of an Android OS app incorrectly identified by Steve Jobs during Apple’s quarterly conference session with the financial community, and a Google VP, somehow refuted complaints about Android’s alleged “fragmented” nature.

However, when you read the article, you’ll find that nothing has actually been refuted. The headline is misleading, because what’s actually being done is typical corporate misdirection.

So we have the comment from Jobs that TwitterDeck must deal with 100 different software versions and 244 different handsets to fully support Android OS devices. Jobs called it “a daunting challenge.”

In a response sent via Twitter — evidently the new medium to deliver official corporate statements — TweekDeck CEO Iain Dodsworth calls the fragmentation dilemma a “small” issue. Notice he doesn’t actually disprove Jobs’ claims. He just says it’s not a problem, and that might be a matter of degree, that they can cope with the challenge, and thus they can claim success. Besides, why should he be believed? It’s not as if he’d confess to the claimed problems, even if they existed.

So far Jobs is not exactly being refuted.

Now we come to the response from Google engineering VP Andy Rubin (a former Apple employee, by the way), described as the “father” of the Android OS, which consists of nothing more than a silly Tweet that doesn’t directly address anything Jobs said.

Again, we see the supposed victims of Jobs’ complaints being unable to respond to his statements with factual information, and this harkens back to that famous blog entry from Jobs that attacked the technical viability of Adobe Flash, particularly on mobile platforms. When you got past Adobe’s clumsy smoke and mirrors, you noticed that they were never actually able to provide data to disprove what Jobs said.

Indeed, reviews of the version of Flash that was installed on Android OS 2.2 simply vindicates what Apple said. Although some Flash-based sites worked well, others delivered tepid performance, system crashes, and, worse, couldn’t recognize touch-based commands. Adobe has still been unable to answer the challenge to prove they can deliver a version of Flash for the iOS that answers all or most of Apple’s objections.

I realize there is an element of corporate spin control in Jobs’ outspoken complaints about the Android OS. Consider his use of the term “integrated” in referring to Apple’s walled garden of hardware and software, and “fragmented” when he mentions the open source Android OS.

I certainly understand why some of you do not feel comfortable with Apple’s restrictions in the iOS, particularly the inability to hack the system without jailbreaking, and use applications not in the App Store. You certainly have a right to object to the inability to make system changes you might regard as necessary to enhance your experience with the iPhone, and the inability to install apps that Apple refuses to offer.

However, I rather think that the biggest obstacle to the iPhone’s growth in the U.S. is not integration, but AT&T. So long as the carrier’s network is subpar in certain key regions of the country, such as New York and San Francisco, Apple is losing loads of potential customers. When the iPhone comes to Verizon Wireless, as it inevitably will, sales are likely to accelerate.

And remember that, when you buy an iPhone, you’re Apple’s customer. They provide support for the hardware. AT&T’s obligation is strictly the network. Compare that to any other mobile handset, where you are the customer of the carrier, and the handset maker is fundamentally irrelevant when it comes to getting support to help solve a problem.

While the media has labeled Jobs’ presence at the conference call as an act of defense, his posture comes across as precisely the reverse. He was there to crow over Apple’s record earnings, and the fact that sales of the iPhone were way ahead of even the most optimistic projections from analysts who are still wondering whether Antennagate was having a potential impact.

The Apple offensive will continue Wednesday with that highly-anticipated media event that will reveal new Mac products and reportedly provide the first preview of Mac OS 10.7, code-named Lion.

Certainly, when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer enthusiastically disparages the competition, coverage is usually uncritical. He is never asked the hard questions about Microsoft’s inability to make a dent on the mobile universe, the apparent tepid response to Windows Phone 7, and its oh-so-obvious failure to advance the state of the art.

More to the point, shouldn’t we regard Ballmer as being defensive, the result of Microsoft’s inability to expand its presence in the consumer market?

Now in the wake of Apple’s record earnings, the stock market price took a dump, though rebounded somewhat. Evidently Wall Street is concerned that Apple’s traditionally conservative guidance for the current quarter doesn’t contain expected profits that are quite as high as they hoped for. The fact that the iPad’s sales didn’t quite match the rosy projections is also dragging down the stock, though to be fair to Apple, they only managed to catch up with demand for the product in September. Up till then, it was on serious backorder, and, aside from Apple, few third party dealers handled the iPad.

We’ll have to see how the iPad fares in the current quarter, where there are no shipping delays to sap its sales potential, and lots more places to buy one. But that’s also true for the iPhone 4, which is still backordered and in short supply. Maybe we’ll never see that promised white version, and it doesn’t seem the customers care.

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4 Responses to “No, Steve Jobs’ Comments About the Android OS Were Not Refuted!”

  1. Peter says:

    Oh come on, Gene!

    Steve Jobs calls it a “daunting challenge” when the people who are actually doing it tell you that’s no big deal. Then you have the gall to actually suggest that these people are somehow lying and that Steve is actually right. So now you believe that Steve Jobs knows more about the difficulties involved in Android development than actual Android developers?!

    By the way, consider that Tweetdeck also has an iPhone and iPad app. If anything, they might be better off not contradicting Steve Jobs. Let’s see how fast their next update gets approved.

    You’re dancing really fast, Gene. Better slow down and take a breath before you hurt yourself.

    • @Peter, I’m not saying the person is lying, but this is the sort of thing where he has to be politically correct as an Android developer. You can’t actually expect him to say, “Yeah, Steve is right. This OS is one fragmented mess.” Let’s be realistic!


      • Peter says:

        @Gene Steinberg, well, he’s also an iPhone developer. So shouldn’t he go with the party line that says, “Oh my God! Android is a fragmented mess!”?

        The fact that he develops for both platforms gives him even more credibility, in my book. If he was an iOS-only developer, he doesn’t have the experience. If he was an Android-only developer, I could believe that he was sugar-coating it. But the fact that he has experience in both platforms gives him a certain objectivity in my book.

        Besides, why does he have to be “politically correct” as an Android developer? Is Google going to kick him out of the Google Marketplace, leaving him no way to distribute his App? I doubt it. But even if they did, there are plenty of other stores out there that he can use to distribute his App. He can even run his own store and not have to give 30% to some distributor. Remember that whole idea that the Internet will allow creative people to sell their own work and not have to worry about some middle-man?

        So, let’s see. In this corner, we have someone who really has nothing to gain by saying Steve is wrong. Someone who has developed Apps for both Android and iPhone. He says that the “fragmentation” of Android is a small issue–not a huge challenge. In the other corner, we have Steve Jobs, maker of the iOS platform who has every reason to want to spread FUD about a competing platform which is outselling his in the mobile phone arena.

        And your choice is to believe Steve Jobs? Watch out–your fanboi is showing.

        • @Peter, No, he won’t be kicked out of the Google Marketplace, because standards are very loose. I still think it’s politics, however. Depends on where his bread is buttered in the real world. It’s not as if Jobs would grab his name out of a hat and make it up. He didn’t even have to mention that person — yes, I know he got the name wrong.


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