Steve Jobs: "Open Systems Don't Always Win"

Apple is often criticized for building products which aren’t as open as they could be, and competitors like Google make a point about how much more open Android phones are than iPhones. But Steve Jobs is unapologetic about Apple’s approach, which is to tightly control how everything integrates from the chips to the software to the industrial design. During Apple’s earnings call today, Jobs pointed out that “open systems don’t always win.”

But he also tried to reframe the debate. “Open versus closed is a smokescreen,” he argues. “Google likes to characterize Android as open and iOS as closed. We think this is disingenuous.” The real difference between the iPhone and Android is, he says, “integrated versus fragmented.” Depending on the carrier and manufacturer, different Android phones runs different versions of Android. Developers are left having to create multiple versions of their apps to work across different Android devices. “The user is left to figure it out,” says Jobs “Compare that to iPhone, where every app is the same.”

The real question, says Jobs, is: “What is best for the customer—integrated versus fragmented? We think this is a huge strength of our system versus Google’s. When selling to people who want their devices to just work, we think integrated wins every time. We are committed to the integrated approach. We are confident it will triumph over Google’s fragmented approach.”

Jobs sees Android as the iPhone’s biggest, and only real competitor. At the beginning of the call, he dismissed RIM (maker of the Blackberry phones) out of hand: “We’ve now past RIM, and I don’t see them catching up to us in the near future.”

In terms of competition with Android, he acknowledges that Android pulled ahead in the June quarter while Apple was transitioning to the iPhone 4. But he almost sounded gleeful when anticipating this quarter’s tally. He complains that there is “no solid data on how many Android phones are shipped each quarter.” While we’re still waiting for the numbers from analyst firms like Gartner, he pointed out that 275,000 iPhones and other iOS devices (iPods and iPads) are activated every day, compared to the last update from Google, which was 200,000 Android activations a day. Reading between the lines, Jobs seems fairly confident that the Gartner estimates for the quarter will show iPhone shipments once again taking the lead. Otherwise, why bring them up?