Steve Jobs Android Anxiety Disorder

Steve Jobs has an Android anxiety disorder. And, as the Android adoption grows, threatening to surpass iOS dominance in the next generation mobile devices, the anxiety is getting worse each month.

Ever since Google first introduced Android back in late 2007, and especially when they launched the touch focused version of it in late 2008, Steve Jobs must have been pissed about it. There were a lot of rumors floating about this all around the net, but for a long time they were just that – rumors. With nothing about Steve’s dissatisfaction spilling out into a public space.

Only a little over a year ago, during Steve’s first public appearance after his leave of absence, Google and Android didn’t seem to be on his radar. During Apple’s “It’s only rock and roll” event in September 2009, Steve was focused on promoting iPhone and telling us about the progress  it was making. Not a single mention of Google or other mobile competitors at all. The only rivals that Steve talked about back then , were portable game console makers, that his iPhone/iPod Touch franchise was demolishing.

Not a big surprise. Back then,  Android was only at 1.5 (Cupcake) stage, and there wasn’t much to worry about. Sales where puny, user experience crappy, consumer interest beyond the geek audience – very limited. And, despite numerous tries, nobody else had anything approaching iPhone in usability and popularity at the time.

But by the start of 2010, Android 2.0/2.1 was out, Verizon got busy with it’s “Droid does” campaign mocking shortcomings of iPhone, and Google launched it’s own superphone – Nexus One. With that, Android started really getting under the Steve’s skin. Not to the level of spilling out into a public shouting matches  just yet, but still. During the iPad introduction came Steve’s claim about how Apple is the biggest mobile device maker in the world, dubiously lumping laptops, iPods and iPhones into a single category for an inflated claims of self importance.  Then, during Q&A session of iOS 4 launch in April, when asked   about the closed nature of App Store, Steve exploded with a rant about porn on Android.

And in less public settings – it’s Townhall Meeting with Apple employees in January – Steve’s frustration and anxiety about Android manifested very openly for the first time. With phrases like “Google “Don’t be evil” mantra is BS… We did not enter search business, they entered the phone business… Make no mistake, they want to kill  iPhone”.

It took another 5 months, some astronomic Android growth figures, and direct potshots at Apple during Google I/O developer conference, to provoke Steve in to an open spitting match with Android. To be sure, Google wasn’t shy about mocking Apple during I/O keynote, from allusions to 1984 (the famous Mac ad) – with Apple as an evil dictator, to benchmarking iPad and Nexus One, mocking iOS multitasking capabilities, and more. But the thing to remember here is, that at the time Android was still an underdog, several  times smaller then the iOS franchise. The smart thing for Apple at this point was to ignore Android, providing figures that tell the story themselves.

But, it seems that attention Android was getting, and the potshots Google and it’s partners were taking at Apple, were too much for Steve to take the high road. A couple of weeks later, at Apple’s own developer conference, Steve Jobs comes out swinging trying to prove to the world and himself  that iPhone is winning and will remain on top. He cites market share and mobile browsing stats, showing how iOS share is several times that of Android, as if the figures before Android growth spurt even started, matter much for the future. He get’s a dubious quote from Wolfram Alpha, comparing earnings from paid, and exclusively promoted iPad app, to an AdSense supported website getting few hundred visitors a day.  And tops it off with the arbitrary claim of winning almost 48% of narrowly selected “mobile display ads” category with iAds.

Well, except that Android didn’t warrant so much Apple’s attention at WWDC, Steve’s response wasn’t too bad. Stats are stats, after all, and anyone can twist them to their advantage however they like.

The next Steve’s appearance – during Apple’s fall new iPod launch event this  September –  was worse.  In addition to using various stats to show that iOS is still bigger then Android, Steve all but openly accuses Google fudging Android numbers, by counting not only unique devices, but also their upgrades as activations. And is quickly refuted  by Google the next day.

Which brings us to Steve’s surprise appearance during Apple’s Q4 earnings conference call, yesterday. And it was a really surprise appearance. Steve almost never takes part in such mundane things as earnings CCs, leaving it to Apple’s  COO and CFO to deal with financial analysts. Not this time. Under the pretext of Apple’s first $20 billion+ quarter, yesterday Steve inserted himself into the conference call… and spent  most of his time ranting against Android and the new 7” tablets coming out to compete with iPad.

15 minutes of earnings CC to trash  a product category (7” tablets) as dead on arrival, when a single tablet haven’t shipped yet? Twisting Android developer (Tweetdeck)  provided stats to fit your Android fragmentation FUD storyline, while completely misunderstanding the original meaning of Tweetdeck’s figures?   And allowing Tweedeck CEO to have fun making you look like a complete dunce?  Spending the rest of your on-air time, picking on every little shortcoming of Android?

And did you really just compare Android to Windows? Did you forget how that chapter in computing history ends?

The more this strange Steve Jobs’es obsession with Android goes on, the more it reminds me of the temper tantrums Steve used to throw towards Bill Gates and Microsoft. (As depicted in popular histories :) ) While the overall mobile device category gets more and more similarities to the PC biz. History never repeats itself exactly. But some of the parralels are uncanny. So it’s understandable that Steve can get more then a bit anxious looking at the rise of Android.

But the best thing for Apple’s CEO to do now, would be to take a deep breath and calm down. Mobile is not PC biz. The market is too big, and there are too many entrenched interests, to allow any one or even two players to dominate any one part of the mobile value chain.

Steve, it doesn’t matter if Android, with it’s hordes of OEMs,  get’s bigger then iPhone eventually. You carved yourself  a hugely profitable and almost unassailable niche with iPhone. You have reinvented  tablet category, and now have it for yourself  alone for the whole of 2010, and even early 2011. Almost a year without a single viable competitor!

So please, stop obsessing and wasting you energy on Android and all other things that you can not change. Just focus on building amazing products, and then let the market and figures speak for themselves.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Anonymous

    Well said.

  • Aizenborg

    “…that Steve can get more thAn a bit anxious”; “…gets bigger thAn iPhone eventually”

  • Anonymous

    i like how Steve Jobs complains with “we didn’t enter the search market, they entered the phone market….”

    really Apple?

    where was this sense of “territorial respect” when you entered:

    the portable MP3 market, (Ipod)
    the music-selling market, (i-tunes)
    the video-selling market, (i-tunes)
    the phone market, (Iphone)
    the tablet market, (Ipad)

    you entered those markets without concern for any respect for the already established market players, why should you cry foul when Google joins a market you didn’t even create ?

    oh that’s right, because if Google joins an existing market after Apple joins it, it obviously means Google is chasing Apple.

    of course Steve, when Google do anything it can’t possibly be for anything other than to chase Apple, no other company in the market that has existed long before Apple’s entry matters, they don’t exist to you right Steve ?

    Steve only sees Google.