Fake Steve goes Android for fake reasons
There's a legitimate argument to be made for leaving the iPhone and going to Android, but Newsweek's Dan Lyons (aka Fake Steve Jobs) utterly, bitterly fails to make it in his recent column on switching from Apple to Google's mobile platform.
First, he feels the new version of Android 2.2, Froyo, "blows the doors" off the iPhone OS. Only Froyo hasn't shipped to consumers yet, just like Apple's next generation operating system, iPhone OS 4, hasn't shipped to consumers yet.
Flash is one of the first things Lyons mentions. Froyo will support it, Apple has said it will decidedly not. Apple's point is at least understandable given their usual behavior. Google's reeks of being reactionary and tactical. Apple is a controlling company exerting control by not allowing Flash. Google is a company that has championed open web standards suddenly throwing full throated support behind a proprietary plug-in which is not open. If anything, I'd of expected Google (and even more so Palm) to take the lead against Flash and towards HTML5.
But politics makes strange bedfellows.
Lyons says Froyo beats OS 4 because it supports tethering (which he lumps in with the separate but admittedly far more interesting mobile hotspot service), and Apple and AT&T do not. He's halfway right there. Somewhat. The iPhone has supported tethering for almost a year, since iPhone OS 3.0 shipped in June 2009. AT&T has chosen not to offer it. And guess what? AT&T could easily choose not to offer Android 2.2 tethering either and just strip it out. Or they could choose to offer it and charge for it. So could any other carrier. Case in point, mobile hotspot for the EVO 4G on Sprint will cost you. The pipes belong to the carrier, you can't complain bitterly about Apple's penchant for control when one of the issues you're complaining about involves an area where users suffer due to the lack of Apple control.
I use free iPhone tethering on Rogers HSPA 7.2 all the time. It's fantastic.
Froyo's ability to let you buy songs over the air (OTA) and download them directly to your phone is likely awesome. It's been awesome on the iPhone since OS 3.0 as well. Tap iTunes Store, tap the song you want, and it downloads directly. Apple thought it was important enough to give up the $0.99 price point for and it's nice Lyons finally learns about it via Google I/O nearly a year later. Streaming songs from your music library is also great in Froyo, and something iPhone OS leaves for 3rd party apps, which previously included Simplify, and app bought by Google, likely to power their streaming. Smart move.
Why doesn't Apple do this directly? I'd like them too as well. Now that Google has removed Simplify from the App Store, maybe they will. Maybe it will involve the iTunes.com service they're rumored to be working on. Either way, right now it's not there. Fair point.
Lyons lauds Google's tone towards Apple at Google I/O. The tone where Andy Rubin likened Apple to North Korea. The tone where Vic Dundotra said Google developed Android because they "faced a draconian future where one man, one company, one carrier would be our future." -- which was utterly laughable considering Google bought (not developed) Android 2 years before Apple announced the iPhone and 3 years before Apple announced the App Store (which Google CEO Eric Schmidt was on Apple's board of directors!). Never mind Google's position in search and online advertising is far, far scarier than Apple's tiny share of the smartphone market.
Google didn't come off as mature or professional in any of those statements. They came off as frightened and duplicitous, and it was disappointing given the strength and growth of Android.
A proud, straightforward Google would have admitted that both open and closed models have their good and bad points. Apple's control gives them a remarkable user experience but results in frustration for segment of their developer community and user base. Google's open platform gives them amazing diversity but results in fragmentation (not legacy) that also frustrates a segment of their developer community and user base. There's no magic model. Everything is about making choices. If that makes Apple North Korea is makes Google any of a number anarchistic, warlord strewn territories. Hyperbole is unfortunately just another double-edged sword.
He also trots out the Q1 results of Android outselling iPhone in the US. Where the iPhone is on one carrier and Android is on almost 4 (we don't really count that AT&T Backflip, do we?). Where the iPhone has been on the market since the previous summer and Verizon had just given the then-brand-new Droid a huge marketing push. Where users on Verizon desperate for an iPhone that still hadn't gone CDMA, and not willing to go Storm, had not competent touch-screen rival other than Android. (I'd be interested to find out how the Droid, known as the Motorola Milestone, is doing on Telus in Canada where it's positioned directly against the iPhone on the same network?).
Lyons finishes with a bizarre diatribe against Apple and Steve Jobs and another conflation of AT&T into his argument against the iPhone.
The reality is Apple and Google (and others) are giant corporations who keep control over what makes them money (Apple hardware and ecosystem, Google search and advertising) and use open, free offerings to compete in areas that don't make them money. Neither are good or evil, neither are better than the other.
There's a legitimate case to be made for someone switching from iPhone to Android -- deep integration of Google services, especially in the US where Navigation and Voice are included, CDMA options in the US, a less regulated application market, form factors that include a keyboard, etc.
Lyons just doesn't make that argument. He doesn't even try.