Steve Jobs picks on Google’s open Android strategy

Oct 19, 2010
Tech

A geek version of a slap fight seems to be developing between Steve Jobs and… well, all of Google. Most of his venom is targeted to Google’s vice president of Mobile Platforms Andy Rubin in particular. The story starts with Jobs hopping on the phone line with reporters during a call about Apple’s Q4 earnings […]

A geek version of a slap fight seems to be developing between Steve Jobs and… well, all of Google. Most of his venom is targeted to Google’s vice president of Mobile Platforms Andy Rubin in particular.

The story starts with Jobs hopping on the phone line with reporters during a call about Apple’s Q4 earnings report. In what was described as an anti-Google tirade or rant, but sounds a lot more like a well-planned public relations speech given at a moment that featured a captive audience, Jobs detailed why he thinks Android will fail against the superior, simplistic might of iOS devices in general. Listen to the whole speech here.

The summary of Jobs’ argument was this: iOS devices work when you pick them up. Everything that was developed for iOS works on iOS, because iOS is always the same on every device. Meanwhile, buy an Android phone and you’ll find that everything isn’t integrated – different phone manufacturers have different versions of the OS, and apps work differently or not at all depending on the hardware. Jobs calls it “fragmented;” Google prefers the term “open.”

Both companies have a point. On the Apple side, the iOS system does make things simple and easy, but users are also barred from doing a lot of things (hence the trend of jailbreaking iPhones, which removes the manufactured limits programmed in by Apple). For Google, on the other hand, while there’s a steeper, more involved learning curve, customization is rampant and users have more freedom.

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Rubin gets technical

Back to the slap fight. In response to Jobs’ carefully read, five-minute speech, Rubin responded in what might be both the nerdiest and most passive-aggressive maneuver ever. He went to his unused Twitter account and posted programming language:

the definition of open: “mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make”

Basically, Rubin is explaining “open” to Jobs – as in, open is Android.

Thrilling, I know.

And for all Jobs’ anti-Google “fragmentation is awful” talk, one of Steve’s own examples about how terrible programming for a hundred different possible Androids can actually fell flat. Jobs points to “Twitter Deck” (we assume he means Twitter client TweetDeck) recently released its Android app and complained about how difficult working with Android could be.

“Twitter client Twitter Deck recently launched their app for Android,” Jobs said during the call. “They reported that they had to contend with more than 100 different versions of Android software on 244 different handsets. The multiple hardware and software iterations present developers with a daunting challenge.”

Well, TweetDeck founder Iain Dodsworth said that no actual complaining took place. He tweeted the following in response:

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

In fact, TweetDeck developers seem to think the wide variety presented by Android is actually pretty cool.

So while Jobs may make a valid point about Android’s fragmentation, it’s important to note that he also isn’t developing for the OS, and people who are developing for the OS don’t necessarily agree with him. He seems to be arguing mostly from a PR standpoint, and not quite so much from one of uncontrolled frustration at the competition’s means of presenting technology, as some other websites seem to suggest.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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