Steve Jobs is such a conversation starter. Love him or hate him, you almost have to talk about him.

In response to Google’s recent “we’re activating over 200k androids a day”, Jobs took a few minutes during Apple’s 4th Quarter Earnings call to take Android/Google to task. Or attempt to anyway. It’s a little difficult to separate the facts from the propaganda/half-truths on either side (although history tells me Apple is real quick to turn on the SpinMachine). For example, Google’s 200k+ number is that new phones or upgrades? Apple’s 275k+ number is that new phones or upgrades? Is that only iPhones or includes iTouch and iPad?

Jobs does raise a few good points (and some misses) during the five-minute rant (youtube embedded at the bottom) such as…

Hit – Fragmentation

The fragmentation of the Android platform is indeed a real and troublesome issue, just not in the way that Jobs thinks it is. He quotes numbers like “244 different handsets” and “100 different software versions” from TweetDeck’s statistics. Jobs posits that this is a nightmare for developers, and while I can see some of that in the Android Market or forums/blogs about apps… “Works great on my Phone A” right next to “Force closes on my Phone B”, it doesn’t seem to be a problem in reality. For example, TweetDeck CEO Iain Dodsworth says on Twitter:

“Did we at any point say it was a nightmare developing on Android? Errr nope, no we didn’t. It wasn’t.”

The real fragmentation problem is with carriers STILL offering new phones with Android 1.6 (it’s got to be pushing 2years old at this point) and/or withholding updates to the latest 2.1/2.2 version and yes, Dell Streak, I’m looking at you. Why? (so they can upsell you on the new 2.1 and 2.2 phones maybe?). Carriers  taking out GOOGLE search from a GOOGLE phone and installing another one like Bing. I’m looking at you Verizon. Why? (I’m guessing Microsoft backed up a dump truck full of cash to Verizon HQ). Carriers opening their own Market for apps. I’m looking at you Verizon, Vodafone, and Amazon (ok, I know they aren’t a carrier – and this one in particular might not be such a bad idea).

When someone asks me “which Android should I get?” it always leads into a 5 minute explanation of which ones to get, which to avoid, what features you may want, the advantages/disadvantages of any particular handset manufacturer or carrier.

The best about Android is also the worst about Android. Do you want a huge screen? check. You want a tiny device? check. Do you want an onscreen keyboard? check. How about a slide-out physical keyboard? check. Need a ton of horsepower? check. Don’t care about performance? check. Don’t like the stock UI? check. Love the stock UI? check. Want a front facing camera? check. Want an 8MP camera? check. HD video? check. All of these choices are available in various combinations from a variety of carriers. And that doesn’t even begin to account for various customizations, custom ROMs, apps, widgets, and wallpapers that anyone can install.

Miss – Open versus closed

I don’t know how Jobs can say with a straight face that the iPhone is open and Android is closed. I have to use iTunes if I want to use my iPhone/iPad/iTouch to load music, apps, photos, and videos. I can only install apps from the Apple App Store. How is that open?

If I were so inclined, I could actually download a copy of the Android OS source (see Andy Rubin below) modify it to my liking, and install it on my phone. Then of course, because it’s me, I’d then have to go get a new phone because I bricked this one. But that’s OK, I can do it because it is open. Can’t do that with iOS.

Jobs says:

“the first thing most of us think about when someone says ‘open’ is Windows, which is available on a variety of devices”

Uh. Really? The only way Windows is the first thing I think about when someone says “open” is if I’m standing next to one and there are no doors, beers, or wine bottles within reach. Microsoft products are probably near the bottom of any sane person’s list of “open”.

Andy Rubin (VP of Mobile Platforms at Google) says it probably best when discussing open:

the definition of open: “mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git:// ; repo sync ; make”

You might not know what that means. But it’s OK, a geek near you knows what it means. And what is important is that’s what enables the carriers (see above) to put whatever crap they want on our phones, but it also enables us, the end-user, to put whatever crap we want on our phones.

Hit & Miss – The App Stores

Fragmentation (see above) of the app stores will more than likely cause an issue. Not for developers, but definitely for the user. I can see a situation where someone buys an app from the Verizon App Store and then switches to AT&T and can’t re-download their app. [Note: That probably won’t be an issue for the Amazon store, which is why I tend to like the idea for them] Or confusion about which app you can get where and which features it may or may not have depending on where you get it from (Skype, I’m STARING AT YOU). I’ll also give the iPhone App Store a big plus for usability and being able to find new apps to play with compared to the Android Market which is really very limited in that regard.

However, touting 300k apps versus 90k apps… Is that really a bonus? I ask a serious question when I say, how many of the 300k are fart apps?

Jobs also says it’s easy to get your app on the store for developers. But I’ve heard many, many, many times that isn’t the case. The process for submitting apps, and then updating them is long and tedious. Whereas if you find a bug on Android, it’s updated…. now. On the iPhone you have to submit it, wait a week or two for it to be reviewed and then finally posted on the App Store. If the review fails for a any reason then restart the process.

Miss – We want devices to just work

I call shenanigans. Maybe 7-10 years ago this was the case. But now I get more questions from Mac/iPhone users about “how do I do this?” than I do Windows users. Most of those questions revolve around a basic premise: I know there is this “Apple” way to do this, but can I do it differently/better/my way? The answer is usually “no”.

Final Judgement

Really, this rant from Jobs I think is a response to Android’s growing popularity. An attempt to “put them in their place” if you will. Fanboys will love it and start walking around with custom made t-shirts with the transcribed text minimalistically displayed on them. Haters will tear the speech apart like Angry Birds fighting over a misplaced logo on a Microsoft presentation (honk if you got that ;) ). But that’s really all it is. Jobs needed to say it so the shareholders can say “look it’s not that big a deal” or “look, Jobs has it covered”.

When push comes to shove though, both platforms are excellent choices. Go iPhone if you want a really polished experience and you don’t mind having a few restrictions placed on you. Go Android if you want full control and don’t mind a few rough spots here & there.

And pretty soon, they might both have a common enemy…