ORLANDO — Delivered with a spice of arrogance, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt on Monday declared the Android platform more secure than Apple's iPhone.
The comparison, made during a question-and-answer session at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, drew laughter from a packed-house audience.
Gartner analyst David Willis, who is chief of research for mobility and communications and who runs Gartner's Senior Research Board, said to Schmidt: "If you polled many people in this audience they would say Google Android is not their principal platform [...] When you say Android, people say, wait a minute, Android is not secure."
Schmidt didn't miss a beat, replying, "Not secure? It's more secure than the iPhone."
The Google chairman danced around a straight answer explaining Android has more than a billion users, is a platform that will be around for a while, and therefore goes through rigorous real-world security testing.
Schmidt then offered up another complaint he often hears — that the platform is fragmented — and then he shot that down. "With Android we have an agreement for vendors that you keep the Android stores compatible and that is a great breakthrough for Android," he said.
Schmidt compared it to his Unix days in the 1980s, saying, "The key thing was that we did not have an app store to keep the Unix people together."
Android is the most widely used operating system, based on worldwide market and usage share statistics. And Google has made efforts to upgrade Android's security, including new security features released in August for Jelly Bean 4.3 and the addition of two new features that work with almost all currently used versions of the OS.
Schmidt said in the distant future there would be an assumption that nothing is secure and that security will be devised on a per app basis for each user.
The iPhone comments and back-and-forth were just a piece of Schmidt's 45-minute question-and-answer session with Willis and his Gartner colleague Drue Reeves, also a Gartner Distinguished Analyst. Schmidt talked about Google as an enterprise application provider, Google Now, Chinese hackers, email, bottoms up management, research on aging, Google management, the computer industry, privacy and trust among other topics.
Summarizing what he had heard during the 45-minute session, Willis said to Schimdt, "What I heard was Android is more secure than the iPhone," to which Schmidt replied, "Android is very secure."
The audience again gave a hearty chuckle. Schmidt paused and said, "You will be happier with Gmail, Chrome and Android more than you can possibly imagine."
The audience chuckled again, and Willis, chuckling himself, responded, "...that makes it a wrap."