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Apple's Steve Jobs slams Google, RIM, rival tablet makers


In a surprise appearance during the company's quarterly earnings call, Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs hailed the success of the iPhone and Pod while painting a bleak outlook for RIM's Blackberry smartphones, Google's fragmented Android smartphone platform, and the coming trickle of 7inch tablets.

"As most of you know," Jobs said on Monday's conference call, "I don't usually participate in earnings calls since you're all in such capable hands.  But I couldn't help dropping by for our first $20 billion quarter.  I'd like to chat about a few things and stay for the Q and A."

RIM Shot

"First, let me discuss iPhone. We sold 14.1 million iPhones in the quarter, a 91% unit growth over year ago and way ahead of IDC's estimate of 64% growth for global smartphone market.  

"It handily beat RIM's 12.1 million Blackberries sold in their last quarter.  We've now passed RIM. I don't see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future.  It will be a challenge for them to create a mobile software platform and convince developers to support a third platform."

Google's fragmented Android

"What about Google? Eric Schmidt said they're activating 200,000 devices per day and 90,000 apps in their store. Apple activating 275,000 iOS devices a day on average for the last 30 days with a peak of 300,000 per day on some of those. There's 300,000 apps on App Store.

"Unfortunately there's no solid data on how many Android phones are shipped each quarter. We hope manufacturers will start reporting it, but it's not the case now.

"We await to see if iPhone or Android was the winner in most recent quarter. Google loves to characterize Android as open and iPhone as closed. We see this disingenuous and clouding the difference.  

"The first thing we think of when we hear open is Windows, which is available on a lot of devices. Unlike Windows, where PCs have the same interface, Android is very fragmented. HTC and Motorola install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves.  The user left to figure it out.  

"Compare this to iPhone where every handset works the same. Twitter client TwitterDeck [sic] recently launched their Android app, and had to contend with 100 different versions of software on 244 different handsets.  That's a daunting challenge.  

"Many Android apps work only on selected handsets, or selected Android versions. This is for handsets that shipped 12 months ago.  Compare with iPhone, where are two versions to test against, the current and most recent predecessor."

Android stores fragmenting

"There will be at least four app stores on Android which customers must search among to find the app they want and developers will have to work with. This will be a mess for users and developers. Contrast this with Apple's integrated app store. Has three times as many apps and offers developers one-stop shopping and get paid swiftly.

"Even if Google was right and the real issue was closed vs open, it's worth remembering open doesn't always win. Look at PlaysForSure. Even Microsoft finally abandoned this open strategy in favor of copying Apple's integrated approach with the Zune, leaving their OEMs empty-handed.

"In reality we think the open vs closed argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue which is: what's best for the customer, fragmented or integrated? We think Android is very fragmented and becoming more fragmented by the day. We prefer integrated so the user doesn't have to be the systems integrator.

"We think this is a huge strength of our approach vs Google's.  We think integrated will trump fragmented every time.  We think developers will be more innovative by focusing on one handset, rather than testing against a lot of hardware.  No matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as closed, we are confident iPhone will triumph."

The avalanche of 7 inch tablets

Jobs then addressed the "avalanche of tablets poised to enter the market," noting that there are really "only a handful of credible entrants. They use 7 inch screens rather than iPad's near 10 inch display.

Pointing out that "screen measurements diagonal," Jobs explained that a 7 inch screen was just 45% as large as the iPad. "This size isn't sufficient to create great tablet apps," Jobs said, extinguishing any hopes for a smaller sized iPad.

Jobs then quipped that small form-factor tablets will need to ship with sandpaper so users can file down their fingers to the point where they can hit smaller targets on the screen. Elements can only get so small before users can't perform these types of touch and pinch gestures, Jobs insisted.

Noting that all tablet users already have a mobile smartphone, Jobs indicated that tablets need to be big enough to be differentiated from mobile devices in terms of features. "No tablet can compete with mobility of a smartphone. Pocket size tablets are tweeners," Jobs said; too big for a smartphone and not big enough to work well as a tablet.

Tablets running Android against Google's recommendation

"Nearly all of these tablets use Android. But even Google is saying don't use Froyo [the current release of Android OS], and instead to wait to use next years' version. What does it mean when a software maker says not to use their release and you use it anyway?

The new crop of tablets will have near zero apps.

Finally, Jobs noted that "our potential competitors [in tablets] are having a tough time coming close to iPad's pricing. iPad incorporates everything we've learned about building high value products. We create our own A4 chip, software, battery chemistry, enclosure, everything. This results in an incredible product at a great price. The proof will be in the pricing of our competitors' products, which will offer less for more.

"We think the 7 inch tablets will be dead on arrival, and manufacturers will realize they're too small and abandon them next year. They'll then increase the size, abandoning the customers and developers who bought into the smaller format," Jobs predicted.

Jobs stayed to provide answers to analysts' questions, joining chief operations officer Tim Cook and chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer. Note that Jobs' comments above are in some cases paraphrased, based on rapid transcript notes made AppleInsider's transcriber and by the author.