Steve Jobs wages war on Android, “open” and fragmentation


It’s always fun when the juggernauts start arguing with each other via the press isn’t it? Nothing seems to get the tech media more riled up than a good ‘ole fashioned pissing contest and after yesterday’s Apple earnings call it looks like Mr. Jobs could use a trough. Here, take a listen to what Steve had to say on Apple’s extraordinary earnings call (kudos to them for their first $20 billion quarter by the way):

Whoa, whoa, whoa!!

What got Steve all riled up? Was it an aggressive question from an analyst? Did someone tell Steve that Eric Schmidt was talking about him behind his back? What’s going on?

Android’s gaining market share is growing rapidly, that’s what’s going on. And Steve’s definitely defensive about it. He’s worried that he’s going to get “PC”’d again and he’s lashing out as a result.

Here, take a look at this excellent infographic from the folks at GigaOm, detailing the rise of Android (source post titled, “How Android is Taking Over”):


So, to recap, Android is growing extraordinarily quickly and Steve Jobs, who hasn’t been on an Apple earnings call since Q3 2008, decided to jump on this earnings call… because he’s feeling a little hot under the collar.

Take another listen to the call above if you didn’t catch the edge to Steve’s voice, the almost whiny sense of urgency. It sounds to us like Steve’s feeling the pressure of Android gaining acceptance and market share and decided to go vent to research analysts.

Which is telling right? This is the same guy who’s told us many times that the great thing about the consumer market is that people vote with their dollars for you. Now he’s talking to Wall Street research analysts and trying to convince them that the consumers, who are voting with their dollars, aren’t making smart decisions? Interesting.

But Steve had a couple interesting points right?

Sort of. Look, we know that Steve has been doing this a LOT longer than us and that the mobile application market is in its infancy. As such, we really respect his point of views on the subject and know that we’re a long way from any one person’s viewpoint being proven correct. That said, Steve made 2 distinct points on an issue that Steve suggests is plaguing Android: fragmentation. We’d like to investigate them a bit more.

Point 1: Developers are hating developing for the Android OS.

First up, he discussed “TwitterDeck” (we know, it’s called Tweetdeck, it rocks and should be referred to correctly, but don’t blame Steve, details only matter when it’s HIS product he’s talking about).

In any case, his point was that Tweetdeck said that Android OS fragmentation was unbearably large. Now, we’ve been paying attention and we call bullshit. Let’s look at the blog post Tweetdeck used to call out this massive fragmentation “problem”: The important data is summarized by this chart of Android OS versions across Android Tweetdeck users:


The interesting piece of this is that Tweetdeck posted this information on their blog as an observation and PRAISE for their own development capabilities. Here’s what they said,

“We were really shocked to see the number of custom roms, crazy phones and general level of customization/hackalicious nature of Android. From our perspective it’s pretty cool to have our app work on such a wide variety of devices and Android OS variations.”

But don’t just take our word for it. The Tweetdeck founder actually went and tweeted that they hadn’t been complaining at all about Android development headaches and that furthermore, they only had 2 developers for the Android project. Hmmm that doesn’t make Android seem overly onerous. Maybe Steve should do a bit more homework the next time he decides to read a blog post and then interpret it on an earnings call.

Point 2: Multiple app stores are wayyyy worse than one centralized app store…

Jobs also took the opportunity to lambast Google’s openness, with his most biting critique being applied to the “mess” of having multiple 3rd Party App Stores. In his view, Jobs thinks that consumers will end up terribly confused and developers will struggle to distribute and publicize their apps in an effective manner. Much like what happens when more than one grocery store is allowed to exist, right?

Obviously, as one of these messy 3rd Party App stores, we’re a bit biased here, but the idea that more choice is worse for consumers just doesn’t resonate with us. Consumers are looking for the best apps, not the biggest app store. If bigger leads to better, great, but that’s not often the case. In Apple’s app store, we know that many app developers are plagued by the problem of being lost in the noise and that most consumers don’t spend a lot of time trying to discover apps that are deep down in the pile. Third party app stores, particularly ones that are focused on helping consumers find the best apps for them, assist in making mobile application discovery a simpler and more focused experienced. Here at MiKandi, our approach is to provide the best experience for adult consumers who are looking for mobile apps of a more adult nature. This allows us to be clear with developers and consumers about the experience they have in our app store.

From a developer’s perspective, multiple app stores will result in a bit more work, yes, but importantly, developers will only go through the work of selecting and publishing in multiple app stores if they see a potential benefit in doing so. The beauty of the free market is that multiple app stores result in more competition for consumer and developer time, ensuring that each individual app store has to improve their offering in order to maintain relevancy. App developers who publish with us find that our focus results in more relevant consumers for them. At a basic level, this really isn’t very different from creating a physical product and choosing to distribute it in both Nordstrom and Wal-Mart. The consumer bases might look similar, but the differences that exist are important and the sales are incremental.

Finally, we find it interesting that while Steve Jobs is busy dismissing the rise of 3rd party app stores, Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, is on the record saying that he thinks they represent “…a net win for everybody.” We agree and are happy to be building an app store for Android, where the consumers who spend hundreds of dollars on their phones are rewarded by having the most choice and ultimately the most freedom.