Archive for April, 2010

iPhone OS 4.0: The great Android 2.1 imitator

April 14, 2010


Yesterday Apple introduced iPhone OS 4.0. Once the subject of endless speculation and a mountain of rumors, we now know this summer’s newest OS release will feature multitasking, new revenue opportunities for developers and better enterprise support, to name just a few of the new offerings. What struck me about the Apple presentation, however, was not the ingenuity or the originality of the new features. No, what struck me is that I had seen almost all of them before in Android 2.1.

Last year I wrote an article, which explored the nature of the rivalries between the big three: Google, Apple and Microsoft. In that article, I posited that Google’s entry into smartphones, the development of Chrome, and the firm’s titanic efforts in the cloud and with advertising not only obsoleted Microsoft’s presence in these spaces, but elevated Google to Microsoft’s old role as Apple’s arch nemesis.

Nine and change months later in 2010, it has never been more apparent that Apple is out to kill Google, which continues merrily along in the enviable position of legitimately threatening the expansion of Apple’s most lucrative business: The iPhone. You see, it’s a cold day in Hell when Apple deigns to play the “me too” game with another company. With the iPod and more recently with the iPad, Apple conjures a massive, willing market from thin air, and leaves companies like Microsoft and HP scrambling to catch up with the Zune and the Slate, respectively.

While the iPhone has taken a similar course since its 2007 introduction (everyone now has an app store, after all), iPhone OS 4.0 added virtually every feature Android currently wields as an advantage, and little else. That’s rather rare form for a company that regularly impugns other firms for struggling to provide the innovation that Apple has exhibited seemingly at every turn. To support this hypothesis, the following table outlines the new features described by Apple in yesterday’s OS 4 presentation, as well as the status of those features in the Android ecosystem.


iPhone OS 4.0

Android 2.1

Tap to focus
In-app SMS API
Home screen wallpaper
5x digital zoom Varies by phone
Bluetooth keyboard API
Data-only settings
Picture/video API
Recent searches
Alert/SMS font sizes
Background location API
Background task completion
Push notification API Google services only
Location notification API
Suspended background apps
Desktop folders
Home screen wallpaper
Lock screen wallpaper
Unified inbox
Multiple Exchange accounts
On-handset attachment opening
Threaded emails
Encrypted email Possible with API
Encrypted email attachments Possible with API
Centralized device management Possible with API
Exchange 2010 support
Administrative app distribution
Ad infrastructure Only if the FTC approves the Google/AdMob deal
Social gaming network

Based on the body of evidence, I suggest that it is rather difficult to ignore the suspicion that OS 4 is little more than a “me too” update and a check against Android. Diving further into the post-presentation Q&A session, we see several answers from Jobs and other Apple employees that tacitly target Google. For example, on the target of task management, Jobs said that any company that makes users multitask with a task manager has already failed. Guess what Android uses?

Next, on the topic of advertising, Jobs was clearly bristling that Google swooped in and purchased AdMob as Apple was trying to court the company for mobile advertising. Apple was forced to buy the much smaller Quattro Wireless instead. Jobs also defended against a request for unsigned applications by obtusely citing a porn app for Android, rather than the many amazing apps that have been made possible by the open development environment.

Final thoughts

Though the iPhone has lorded over the land for nearly three years as the reigning king of smartphone sales, Android has grown from a plucky upstart to a serious concern for Apple. In fact, as of February, 2010, Android more than doubled its market share to 9% in a span of just three months, and it continues to climb. This incredible growth comes primarily at the expense of Windows Mobile and webOS, but it’s also one of the few times the iPhone has failed to gain ground; the iPhone actually fell 0.1% in the same time period.

Another study conducted by ChangeWave in December showed that future smartphone buyers considering Android for their next purchase more than tripled to 21% over the course of four months. Customer satisfaction, too, was at an all-time high of 72%, just five percent less than that of the iPhone. This is a serious breach of mindshare for Apple, which once stood alone in these respects.

Finally, Android represents a cultural threat to Apple, as it too attracts affluent, Internet savvy consumers that are more likely to pay for frequent upgrades. This makes Android a concern in a way Palm and Microsoft are not, even if the latter is also flush with cash.

With Google closing in on Apple’s customers, prestige and revenue, it’s no surprise that Apple cracked and played follow the leader with iPhone OS 4.0. It had to. Android is a threat that Cupertino no longer has the luxury to ignore.

[via Icrontic]



Is Steve Jobs Ignoring History, Or Trying To Rewrite It?

April 14, 2010


Very few people get the chance to make history. Even fewer get the chance to make it twice. Perhaps that is why it is so fascinating to watch Steve Jobs as he tries to usher in the era of mobile touch computing today, just as he ushered in the era of the personal computer three decades ago. But I wonder whether he is repeating the very same mistakes which relegated Macs to a niche market. Or did he learn from those mistakes so that Apple comes out on top this time?

Jobs is once again pitting Apple’s complete product design mastery against the rest of the industry, except this time he thinks he will prevail. Whether it is his repeated moves to keep Adobe’s Flash off the iPhone or his growing rift with Google over Android, Jobs is making the iPhone and iPad a relatively closed system that Apple can control. All apps need to be approved by Apple, the ads shown on the apps will also start to go through Apple, and no matter how hard Adobe tries to open up the iPhone to its Flash developers Apple will keep blocking all its efforts.

Developers and pundits can cry foul all they want about Apple’s lack of openness. But remember, companies are only open when it is convenient for them. The fight with Adobe has always been about making developers play by Apple’s rules. And right now they can make those rules because they have all the customers.

In the desktop era, Windows had the most apps, which translated directly into sales. Today on mobile, the iPhone has the most apps and Jobs wants to keep it that way. Allowing Adobe or Microsoft to port apps developed for other devices to the iPhone devalues the iPhone, which is why Apple is cracking down so hard on Adobe. It is not about Flash, it is about developers. As John Gruber writes:

The App Store platform could turn into a long-term de facto standard platform. That’s how Microsoft became Microsoft. At a certain point developers wrote apps for Windows because so many users were on Windows and users bought Windows PCs because all the software was being written for Windows. That’s the sort of situation that creates a license to print money.

But how long will that license last? The iPhone faces a growing threat from Google’s Android phones, which are the PCs of the mobile world. Only Apple makes the iPhone, but many phone manufacturers make Android phones just like many PC makers produce Windows PCs. Slowly but surely, those Android phones are getting better. And already Android sales are collectively catching up to iPhone sales.

Of all people, surely he sees what is coming. Is he ignoring his own history, or does he know it so well that this time he is going to try to rewrite it by changing the outcome? As long as the iPhone remains the leading smartphone, he can try to lock out Google’s ads and lock in developers with their apps (and, by extension, customers who want those apps).

Still, it seems like history could repeat itself, with the rest of the industry closing the innovation gap with Apple fast. With Google subsidizing the mobile OS, other phone manufacturers have an economic advantage as well. Jobs is trying everything he can to hold back the Android advance, including suing HTC, the largest manufacturer of Android phones. He is fighting Google with everything he’s got—undercutting Google’s pending acquisition of AdMob by entering the mobile advertising market and creating fear among Android partners with his patent lawsuit.

In the end, it is the victors who write history. Right now, Jobs is winning. Can he keep winning or is history against him?

[via TechCrunch]