Apple’s solid financial performance for the past quarter got them headlines enough, but it’s CEO Steve Jobs’ no-holds-barred attack on rival “open” platforms and tablets trying to colonise the middle-ground between iPhone and iPad that will likely stick in most memories. Making an unusual appearance on the financial results call, Jobs dismissed 7-inch slates – like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and including the ongoing rumors of a smaller iPad version – as “tweeners” falling in-between smartphone and iPad and likely to be dead on arrival, while also saving a few obituary words for RIM.
Jobs pointed out that a 7-inch screen is actually a little under half of what the iPad offers – 45-percent in fact – and said that “this size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps, in our opinion.” Although a higher resolution could help, “it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one-quarter of their present size.” Android, Jobs reckons, isn’t ready for tablets, and he pointed to Google’s own suggestions that manufacturers should wait for 3.0 Gingerbread as evidence that he’s not the only one.
In fact, the outspoken CEO isn’t keen on Android whatsoever, particularly what he classes as Google’s “disingenuous” attempt to break Android vs iOS down into “open” vs “closed”. Instead, Jobs says it’s a case of “fragmented” vs “integrated”, and unsurprisingly he sees that as a benefit both to Apple and to its users. “We think this a huge strength of our approach compared to Google’s” he explained, “when selling the users who want their devices to just work, we believe that integrated will trump fragmented every time.” Moreover, developers can “be more innovative” with just a single, non-fragmented platform to code for.
As for RIM, Jobs said the Canadian firm “must move beyond their area of strength and comfort, into the unfamiliar territory of trying to become a software platform company” but that their primary challenge was to get developers on board. “I don’t see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future” he concluded.
The speech – together with the Q&A, in which Jobs dodged a question about Flash by answering it as if it were about flash storage – is likely to prove an ongoing point of contention among Apple’s rivals and among the fanboys of multiple platforms. The big question is whether the “handful of credible entrants” to the tablet market can successfully grab “tweener” marketshare.