Six months since the passing of Steve Jobs, very little has changed in the world of Apple. Prior to the death of Apple’s founder, the technosphere was eagerly awaiting the release of the iPhone 5. In April 2012, we find ourselves in a similar predicament; still waiting for the launch date of the latest must-have Apple device. That’s not to say that Apple have been resting on their laurels in the post-Jobs milieu in which they found themselves in mid-2011. There was the launch of the iPhone 4S for starters, an event that proved to be an unsurprisingly downbeat event in light of Jobs’ untimely passing. Perhaps the sense of anti-climax also owed something to the realisation that this was not going to be the much-feted iPhone 5, but rather a souped-up version of the iPhone 4. In spite of this, the 4S proved to be an instant success, with over one million sales within its first 24 hours of release, shattering all previous records.
Were Steve Jobs still alive today, he would doubtless be delighted with the success of the iPhone 4S and of the all-but-assured success of the iPhone 5 when it is released later this year (June is the current rumoured launch date.) There is one development within the mobile industry that Jobs would have been less pleased to observe however – the rise of Android. Not surprisingly, Steve Jobs wasn’t too enamoured with Google’s Android smartphone operating system. After all, it was – and still is – the main competitor to Apple’s proprietary OS. But Jobs didn’t just dislike Android – he hated it.
Recently, Google co-founder Larry Page stated in an interview with Business Week that Jobs’ professed hatred for Android was all for show. He didn’t really despise the Google OS, but was merely trying to rally the troops against the competition. When asked about the differences between himself and Steve Jobs towards the end of his life, Page stated:
“I think the Android differences were actually for show. […] I think that served their interests. For a lot of companies, it’s useful for them to feel like they have an obvious competitor and to rally around that. I personally believe that it’s better to shoot higher. You don’t want to be looking at your competitors. You want to be looking at what’s possible and how to make the world better.”
One person who knows exactly how Steve Jobs felt about Android is Walter Isaacson, author of the approved biography of the Apple founder. Towards the end of Jobs’ life, he is depicted in Isaacson’s biography as being extremely bitter about Android, vowing to declare ‘thermonuclear’ war on Google for copying the look and feel of Apple’s OS.
According to Isaacson, Jobs wasn’t just fronting when he professed to dislike Android; he genuinely had beef with Google. In fact, Jobs allegedly explained to Isaacson
“[Apple’s] lawsuit is saying, ‘Google, you f___g ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off.’ Grand theft…Make no mistake, they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them.”
Isaacson recently countered Larry Page’s claims by stating that Steve Jobs really did hate Android. The source of Jobs’ rage, according to Isaacson, dates back to the 1980s when Microsoft had drawn a lot of “inspiration” from Apple’s graphical operating system. Microsoft then achieved market dominance by “promiscuously” licencing it out to computer manufacturers instead of creating a closed hardware-software ecosystem like Apple.
Steve Jobs believed that Google were now doing the same thing with iOS. Apple had created a closed ecosystem with iOS and the iPhone, and Google had copied the operating system and began to “promiscuously” licence it out to phone manufacturers.
Irrespective of the merits of Jobs’ argument, there is no denying that Android has continued to flourish over the past six months. Taking lawsuits and iPhone releases in its stride, Android has gone from strength to strength, increasing its share of the smartphone market. Recent figures from the US have revealed that in February, Android’s share of the smartphone market topped 50%. Apple, on the other hand, sat at a respectable – but substantially lower – 30%. While Android’s acquisition of over 50% of the US market is statistically significant, it should be noted that the rest of the global market reached that figure in August 2011 – two months before Steve Jobs’ death.
Of course, the merits of any product cannot be measured in terms of sales or market share alone. After all, it has recently been revealed that Android only makes £1 from the sale of each Android device – compared with the £365 that Apple pockets for each iPhone. Were Jobs alive today, he would doubtless still be railing against Android’s encroachment into the smartphone market. Behind closed doors, however, he may find himself with more pleasing distractions to attend to: Apple’s biggest problem of late has not been combatting Android, but deciding what to do with their $100 billion cash surplus. Talk about first world problems…
For Jobs, it wasn’t about the money, but a fear that history was repeating itself. Even so, with the launch of the iPhone 5 just a couple of months away, who’d want to bet against Apple enjoying the last laugh all the way to the bank?
This post was written by Simon from Best Mobile Contracts, the leading mobile phone comparison website in the United Kingdom. Best Mobile Contracts also provides up to date news on phone releases, contracts and other industry developments.