Mobile OS Wars: Tech Titans Jobs and Rubin Trade Barbs
The mobile operating system smackdown is revving up, as Google's Android czar, Andy Rubin, appeared to tweet a cheeky response to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who dissed the open source mobile OS during an earnings call last night. On a conference call to detail earnings for the third-quarter, in which Apple sold 14.1 million iPhones, Jobs said Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) integrated approach is better for users and developers, compared to the open source strategy of (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google. "Google loves to characterize Android as open and iOS as closed. We find that disingenuous," said Jobs during the call. "In reality, the open versus closed debate is a smoke screen of the real issue, which is what's best for the customer, fragmented or integrated?... Apple strives for the integrated model so users aren't the systems integrator. We think that's a huge strength. Integrated will trump fragmented every time." Soon after, tech blogs, including TechCrunch which was among the first to publish the scoop, began reporting that Twitter user ARubin, shot back at Jobs. If reports are true, Android chief Rubin's first tweet is as follows:
the definition of open: "mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make"
By press time, Google had not returned calls inviting Rubin to comment. However, a translation of the tweet boils down to using open source software in the most basic sense -- creating your own code from scratch. The fight between the tech titans comes at a time when the wireless industry is experiencing both double-digit growth and fierce competition among mobile device manufacturers and the companies that back the differing mobile operating systems on which they run. Currently, Apple's iOS, which powers the iPhone and iPad, is the leader in the hearts-and-minds battle, and the company is realizing record-breaking sales, though Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) sold more units in the second quarter and Android handset sales recently surpassed iOS for the first time. In the second quarter, according to research firm IDC, RIM's share of the worldwide smartphone market fell to 18.2 percent from 19 percent in the year-earlier quarter. Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone saw its share jump to 14.2 percent from 13 percent in the same period and Android devices exploded up from 1.8 percent to 17.2 percent.
Google's Android is currently in version 2.2, called Froyo, and the update is being rolled out to a slew of smartphones including the Droid X, while other handsets such as the T-Mobile G2 and new myTouch are shipping with the latest OS. Critics have said that Android is suffering from fragmentation, meaning some apps run on some versions of the mobile Linux platform and not others and that not all mobile devices are able to receive updates of the OS. Still, Android 2.2 includes more mobile security features, such as support for complex passwords and policies, remote wipe and the ability to remotely lock the device to secure data if the smartphone is lost or stolen. It also includes support for Exchange calendars, Adobe Flash as well as tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot functionality, and, overall, performs much faster. The mobile OS also now allows for application storage on external devices and a more fluid mobile app market experience. RIM has countered by issuing a refreshed OS, BlackBerry 6, which includes an updated browser experience and enhanced multimedia capability. RIM also just unveiled its answer to the iPad, the BlackBerry PlayBook, running on a new platform, dubbed Tablet OS, based on QNX software.