In a surprise appearance during the company’s quarterly earnings call, Apple’s chief executive Steve Jobs hailed the success of the iPhone and Pod while painting a bleak outlook for RIM’s Blackberry smartphones, Google’s Android smartphone platform, and the coming trickle of 7-inch tablet PCs.
“As most of you know, I don’t usually participate in earnings calls since you’re all in such capable hands,” Jobs said on Monday’s conference call. “But I couldn’t help dropping by for our first $20 billion quarter. I’d like to chat about a few things and stay for the Q and A.”
Apple posted revenues of $20.34 billion, and a net quarterly profit of $4.31 billion. Apple reported sales of 3.89 million Macs during the quarter, along with 14.1 million iPhones and 9.05 million iPods.
While sales of Macs and iPhones experienced year-over-year increases of 27 percent and 91 percent, respectively, the iPod continued its slow quarter-by-quarter decline.
Jobs began his comments on Monday by relishing in Apple’s successes with the iPhone 4: “First, let me discuss iPhone. We sold 14.1 million iPhones in the quarter, a 91% unit growth over year ago and way ahead of IDC’s estimate of 64% growth for global smartphone market.”
“It handily beat RIM’s 12.1 million Blackberries sold in their last quarter. We’ve now passed RIM. I don’t see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future. It will be a challenge for them to create a mobile software platform and convince developers to support a third platform,” he added.
RIM, the Canadian smartphone manufacturer, is popular with corporate IT departments for its tight security mechanisms and reliable keyboards for tapping out long emails.
Despite the slow quarter for RIM, the BlackBerry maker still has the highest market share of smartphone users, according to independent data. The company is preparing to enter the tablet market with its PlayBook, an area dominated by Apple’s iPad. “RIM has a high mountain to climb,” Jobs concluded.
Then, Apple’s chief executive expressed skepticism about how Google reports its number of Android users. This is an issue Jobs has raised in prior speeches, yet he freely addressed the point of comparison, saying Apple has activated 75,000 more iOS devices over the last 30 days compared to Google’s last reported Android activation number.
“What about Google? Eric Schmidt said they’re activating 200,000 devices per day and 90,000 apps in their store. Apple activating 275,000 iOS devices a day on average for the last 30 days with a peak of 300,000 per day on some of those. There’s 300,000 apps on App Store,”Jobs said.
He continued: “Unfortunately there’s no solid data on how many Android phones are shipped each quarter. We hope manufacturers will start reporting it, but it’s not the case now.” Jobs then took issue with the geeky argument of open versus closed, which refers to how transparent a system’s source code is to developers.
“Google loves to characterize Android as open, and iOS and iPhone as closed,” Jobs said. “We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the differences between our two approaches.”
He called Android “fragmented.” He highlighted how Android handset makers install layers on top of Google’s software, which can introduce unexpected problems.
He said: “Compare this to iPhone where every handset works the same. Twitter client TwitterDeck [sic] recently launched their Android app, and had to contend with 100 different versions of software on 244 different handsets. That’s a daunting challenge.”
And Amazon, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone say they intend to create their own digital stores to sell applications to Android users, despite Google’s own Marketplace. “This is going to be a mess for both users and developers,” Jobs said. “We believe integrated will trump fragmented every time.”
Later, Jobs criticized Google for not having a version of Android that plays nicely with tablets. The animated executive then turned his attention to tablet-device makers, which are ramping up production in advance of the holiday season.
“Almost all of them use 7-inch screens, as opposed to the iPad’s 10-inch screen,” Jobs said. “This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps.”
Jobs joked that people would need to sandpaper their fingers in order to use these gadgets comfortably. While a smaller tablet is obviously more portable, he says consumers won’t want something that replaces a smartphone. “Every tablet user is also a smartphone user,” he proclaimed.
His comments will perhaps put an end to speculation that Apple will make a 7-inch iPad. “We think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum screen size required to make great tablet apps,” he added.
Additionally, Jobs said tablet makers will have a hard time matching Apple’s prices. The most inexpensive iPad sells for $499. Competitors’ tablets will be “dead on arrival,” Jobs said. He added: “Sounds like lots of fun ahead.”
On Adobe Systems, which makes the Flash platform that powers most of the Web’s video, Jobs dodged questions. He finally addressed the lack of Flash support on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, saying: “Flash hasn’t presented any problem at all.”
On Nokia, which sells the most cell phones worldwide, Jobs said: “Nokia is the biggest, and we admire them for being able to ship the number of handsets that they do. But we don’t aspire to be like them.”
“Nokia makes $50 handsets, and we don’t know how to make a great smartphone for $50,” Jobs said. “We’re not smart enough to figure that one out yet.”
Oftentimes, his discussions would come back to Google, as they did again after a question about Nokia. “Android is our biggest competitor,” Jobs said. “They outshipped us in the June quarter when we were transitioning to the iPhone 4.”
“Eventually it will turn into a zero-sum game or a lot closer to that,” Jobs said of the smartphone market. “Right now, iPhone and Android are winning that battle.” [Apple via Daily Telegraph (UK), eWeek and CNN]