The Android Nemesis
In the same Q4 2010 earnings call that I mentioned earlier regarding small-screen Android tablets,
Steve Jobs went on a five-minute tirade on the broader Android-based ecosystem. Here's a recording. These scathing comments were accompanied by a terser, but no less bold, threat documented in Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs:
"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
What was behind Jobs' palpable anger? Google (now Alphabet) then-CEO (now executive chairman) Eric Schmidt was also on Apple's board from 2006 to 2009 and therefore privy to Apple's iPhone and other product plans. Google had bought Android in 2005, and Jobs was aware of Google's smartphone aspirations, but the initial product prototype Schmidt shared with Jobs was Blackberry-like, absent a touchscreen and integrating a physical keyboard. However, the first production Android-based smartphone, the T-Mobile G1 (i.e. HTC Dream) did include an iPhone-like touchscreen, and subsequent Android-powered models from various manufacturers also transitioned to a virtual keyboard.
So where are we today? iOS-based devices garner the bulk of mobile device market profits (maybe even more in the near future), but Android-based devices constitute the vast (and a growing) percentage of mobile device shipments. If any of you are mentally drawing an iOS-vs-Android analogy to Mac OS-vs-Windows, the comparison is indeed apt. But here's where the analogy breaks down; whereas Apple had sued Microsoft in the Jobs era for similarities between the two operating systems (along with assisting the Department of Justice in its antitrust actions against Microsoft), post-Jobs Apple has to date limited its Android responses to indirect lawsuits filed against Android licensees such as Samsung.
Oracle, in contrast, has had no compunction against directly targeting Android, although its to-date success has been nonexistent. Were Jobs still alive and in charge of Apple, would he have made good on his "thermonuclear" threat with a similar direct attack? Likely, I think.
(image source: Google)