Jobs’ Jab Suggests Apple Fears Android

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It’s great to see Steve Jobs on stage unveiling an Apple product. His passion and enthusiasm make him extremely persuasive, and it’s easy to see why consumers often buy into the hype of what he often calls Apple’s “magical” offerings.

That’s why Jobs’ jabs at Android, or “our competitors” as he said, during the iPad 2 unveiling were so striking. To reiterate, Jobs repeated a Samsung misquote suggesting the Galaxy Tab sales were “quite small.” In reality, the quote expressed Tab sales were “quite smooth,” and was simply misheard. News outlets reporting the “quite small” comment quickly corrected the mistake.

Jobs took also a shot at the current lack of Android tablet apps, saying there are less than 100, which is actually true. At launch, the Xoom had only 16 tablet-specific apps. The iPad has 60,000. However, the Xoom and other Android tablets can run any Android app, just as the iPad can run any App Store app, though with limits as most were designed for smaller smartphones.

Punching Down

In politics, you never punch down. Steve Jobs should have heeded that advice because by taking very public shots at Android and repeating a misquote that was widely corrected, he looked petty, and he brought Android up onto Apple’s level.
If the iPad has more than 90% of the tablet market and it is “most successful consumer product ever launched” as Jobs said “some claimed,” why waste breath on the competition?

Here’s why: the tablet market is still wide open, and the iPad is facing Android competition from at least Motorola, Samsung, Asus, Lenovo, Toshiba, HTC, and LG, to name a few. Thanks to the sheer glut of devices, no Android tablet maker has to ship 15 million units to compete with Apple. If the upcoming Tabs, Eee Pads, G-Slate, LePad and recently-shipped Xoom approach the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab’s success, Android will have a sizeable, if not majority, market share.

The market has plenty of room to grow. According to Business Insider, citing numbers for RBC analyst Mike Abramsky, there are only 394 million smartphone and tablet users worldwide (a number I believe is heavily skewed toward smartphone users), compared to 1.3 billion PC users and 5.1 billion mobile subscribers. He expects there to be 400 million tablet users alone by 2014, the same year 185 million tablets will ship.

Suddenly, the 15 million iPads Apple sold in 2010 seems insignificant. And that fact that Android tablets will steadily trickle out throughout the calendar year, leapfrogging past models in terms of features and specs, bodes well for the platform, especially considering Apple cannot keep refreshing the iPad to keep up.

Post PC Era

Of course, Steve Jobs might argue that we are now in the “post PC era,” which presumably means specs no longer matter and only user experience counts. Granted, most average consumers don’t compare processors, RAM, and pixel density when deciding on a product. But specs aren’t meaningless, and one need only fiddle with the dual-core toting Xoom and A4-powered iPad side by side to see the Xoom is a more powerful and speedier tablet with a slightly more detailed display.

The iPad 2 will have an A5 dual-core processor, which should bring it up to speed. But Nvidia is set to roll out mobile quad-core Tegra 3 processors by Fall 2011, which will offer Blu-ray video quality.

In the Fall of 2011, the iPad 2 will still be stuck with a 1024 x 768 display.

Jobs is essentially ceding the specs argument, knowing his iPad will never compete. Meanwhile, Google is doing everything it can to create a better tablet platform, including addressing fragmentation and adding new features like NFC capabilities and active pen support, which might not be groundbreaking, but it simultaneously smoothes the edges of Android while distinguishing Android as the innovative tablet OS.

No Lead is Safe

The fact is, RIM had an “insurmountable lead” in the smartphone market before Apple released the iPhone. The iPhone had an “insurmountable lead” before Android came along. Now, smartphones are at least a three-way race, with Microsoft attempting to make a case with Windows Phone 7 as the fourth.

There is room for at least two in the tablet market, and maybe three or four if HP and RIM have a say. Steve Jobs confirmed this by taking shots at his “competitors.”

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