Steve Jobs is right about tablets, right about RIM, wrong about Android, and kills off the "7-inch iPad" nonsense

Apple CEO Steve Jobs was in fighting spirits during yesterday's earnings conference call and found the time to take swipes at, well, pretty much every Apple competitor out there.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Apple CEO Steve Jobs was in fighting spirits during yesterday's earnings conference call and found the time to take swipes at, well, pretty much every Apple competitor out there.

This is the first time we've heard Jobs address investors for two years, and he took the opportunity to attack almost everything non-Apple.

Let's start with tablets. Here's what Jobs had to say

"The current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA, dead on arrival. Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small."

I agree with Jobs on this one. I believe that price has more to do with 7-inch tablets than portability or usability does. OEMs like the idea of 7-inch tablets because they'll be cheaper than 9.7-inch tablets like the iPad. In theory a 7-inch screen tablet sounds like a good idea, but in practice it's a size that falls uncomfortably between the iPad and smartphones. Too large to carry like a cellphone, too small to use like a proper tablet.

The fact that Jobs attacked 7-inch tablets so hard is the best indication to date that Apple doesn't have plans for a 7-inch iPad. I never believed that there were any plans for a 7-inch iPad outside of the minds of people who spend their time building houses of cards out of guesses and hunches. And that's putting it mildly. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the 7-inch iPad "rumors" were little more than slow news day BS.

It's hard to see how Apple could have competitively priced a 7-inch iPad given the cost of the screen compared to the total component cost of the device.

I sense a rocky road for 7-inch tablets.

Let's now shift out attention to what Jobs had to say about RIM:

"I don't see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future."

Makes sense. RIM nowadays seems to be more interested in clinging onto its existing customer base than dramatically expanding.

Google's Android platform came under scrutiny:

"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 user interfaces to differentiate themselves. Compare this with iPhone, where every handset looks the same."

He went on to say:

"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."


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

I think that Jobs is trying to make out that the Android market is far more fragmented and differentiated than it actually is. Sure, there are plenty of handsets on offer, but underneath a thin veneer of customizations Android is Android. And as 2.0+ versions of the OS take over from earlier versions, the fragmentation issue is getting better, as opposed to getting worse.

And what about those multiple handsets from a variety of OEMs (and offered of a variety of networks)? What Jobs sees as fragmentation, others see as choice.

Jobs did go on to make a point about Android in general that I agree with:

Apple strives for the integrated model so that the user isn't forced to be the systems integrator. We see tremendous value at having Apple, rather than our users, be the systems integrator. We think this a huge strength of our approach compared to Google's. When selling to users who want their devices to just work, we believe that integrated will trump fragmented every time.

That's a good point, and strikes at the heart of what Android ultimately is - a platform for people who relish technology and like to tinker. iOS is designed with consumers in mind. Android is designed with geeks in mind.

Jobs spend a lot of time Google-bashing during the conference call, going well beyond the swipes he took at other competitors. It's clear that Google, or at least Android, that represents the biggest threat to Apple's business today. Apple no longer sees Microsoft as a threat.

Oh, and for your entertainment, I give you Steve Jobs' five minute Google rant. Enjoy!

No matter what you think of Apple, that was one heck of an earnings conference call!

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