Symbian Exec: Google is Fragmented and Evil. Apple, Just Greedy.

Lee Williams, executive director at Symbian, sits down with GigaOM's Om Malik, and gets candid -- really candid -- about Apple and Google:

“Android is building a perfect storm of fragmentation. I don’t view Apple as evil, just greedy. Google … Come on.”

He claims his opinion is informed by his conversations with large carriers who complain that they have to provide Apple App Store apps to iPhone users yet derive no income from them (we'd point out they made money off the data plans -- dumb pipes!), and that Google is taking away their customer interface, "cookie-ing" them (tracking their online activities) via proprietary apps obscured in lip service to "openness" and using that to feed their advertising business.

When asked why companies like HTC, if they know Google is "evil", aren't investing in Symbian instead, Williams advises Om to "wait and see", and thinks those manufacturers might be interested in "very open systems."

While offering no advice to Apple, he does invite Google to join the Symbian foundation so they can have a voice in that open system. Somehow we doubt he'll see them take up that offer any time soon.

Harsh words for competitors, but also strangely refreshing to see on camera. As to the iPhone, is the carrier beef legitimate? Should they be getting a cut of App Store profits, or should they be happy with the huge increase in data revenue the iPhone is already bringing them?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

StoneLoops! of Jurassica Pulled from App Store Due to Copyright Complaint?

Next up →

T-Mobile Android myTouch Commercial Helps Sell iPhone Apps

Reader comments

Symbian Exec: Google is Fragmented and Evil. Apple, Just Greedy.


I'm sorry but this thread was poorly written. I felt like I was coming in on the tail end of a conversation. It seems more suitable for Twitter or SMS. Next please be more specific. I do love this website and visit it nearly 30 times a day via my Iphone. Also I meant no disrespect.

Android isn't an open system, it's locked down more than the iPhone in many ways.
Symbian - as it stands now, is difficult to use and boring.

Lee seems to be an incredibly smart guy. Good for Symbian. But he says Android is creating a perfect storm of fragmentation, then turns around and hypes "custom tailored" versions of Symbian for different markets. The very definition of fragmentation.
Fragmentation of Android means all the Droid handset makers will be fighting over the same slice of the pie. That slice will get bigger as WinMo's and Palm's and yes, Symbian's slices get smaller. It will be interesting to see what happens if/when Nokia acquires Palm...

Symbian is just as fragmented as Android. Look at how many Symbian handsets Nokia introduces every year. Selling both Symbian and Maemo phones fragments things even more. The carriers don't deserve a cent from app sales. They already charge high prices for text messaging and data. The carriers are the greedy parties, not Apple.

I disagree with this analysis. I don't think Apple is any less evil than Google. If anything, I think that that their actions are much more evil.
It just might not seem that way, because Google has access to much more sensitive information.

I think you nailed it.
This guy is watching his lunch being eaten by Google.
Fragmentation is NOT what is happening. Just because everybody put a new coat of look and feel on the same platform does not make it fragmented. It makes it interesting.
Android makers may indeed be fighting for the same slice of pie, (as well as RIM's pie, and Nokia's Pie, but at this point in time the Pie is growing exponentially. Its not a zero sum game. There are huge, monstrously HUGE numbers of regular old cell phone users that will be switching to smart phones in the next 5 years.
And virtually NONE of those will be switching to Simbian, because he just had his last BIG leg cut out from under him when Nokia announced the N900 (Linux). Nobody is planning to go back to Simbian.
Google Evil? I've been waiting for Clear Signs, but haven't seen any yet. They have been pretty above board in what they do, even if they are bent on playing in All the sandboxes at once.
If Greed were Apple's only problem it would be a lot easier to swallow.

I don't understand... what part do carriers play in providing apps? Do they make them? Do they update them, manage the store, process the payments? No. Do they help out in any way? Yes, they provide pipes and are paid for it. End of story.
AT&T doesn't get a cut of what I sell in MY stores, nor do they even ask me, nor do they ask any of the millions of other online merchants who use their services. Why should Apple's store be any different?

Totally agree. Giving ATT a cut of the App store revenue would be like giving my ISP (also ATT) a cut of software I buy on the internet for my PC. Makes no sense.
My company also sells physical products over the web. Do ATT and other carriers deserve a cut of that revenue? I think not. How about this, people can call our phone center and order a product. Does ATT deserve a cut of that revenue?
With regard to the OP, Apple is at least as evil as Google and MSFT. Greedy is kind of a silly and arbitrary term. How much is too much? Its ok to want to make a lot of money. The moral issue is what you're willing to do to get it. Like keeping customers from fully accessing the hardware they own, or by tying software (iTunes) to the hardware.

1: dumb pipes!
2: I don't know much about Symbian but when this guy pushes "openness," and then directs that statement to carriers and manufacturers, what I hear is "look how easy it will be to lock down my OS so your customers will have no control over what is on their phone."

I'm sorry to ask this dumb question people but what the heck is android and symbian and all that stuff, please reply I need to know

Carriers think Apple is greedy because Apple is making money with the app store concept, where carriers uniformly failed with their own store (eg VZAppZone) offerings.
Symbian thinks Google is evil because Android swept in and took their market and mindshare among phone manufacturers.
Those grapes could hardly get any more sour.

Symbian had it's chance and did nothing with it. Apple is greedy but they didn't force us to give them our money, we chose to. They don't have to share it with anyone if they don't want to.

@shollomon and fastlane:
Does the car dealer get to use the road for nothing? Or does he help pay for it like everybody else.
When any big box retail establishment goes up they usually get tapped for some of the new exit ramps, access road, and other improvements before the project gets going. Then they continue to contribute tax revenue thereafter.
Apple opened a Shopping Center on a country highway.
They left the job of turning it into a six lane and adding mass transit, policing, water sewer etc to the county and its tax payers, the majority of which don't even shop there.
Apple can't thump its chest and claim world dominance in Wireless data penetration AND AT THE SAME TIME claim it is not responsible for any of the impact.
Not saying I totally believe this argument myself, just throwing it out there ....
@Andy: Google is your friend.


Does the car dealer get to use the road for nothing? Or does he help pay for it like everybody else.

But Apple already does help pay for the road like everyone else. Do they also owe the sources providing traffic more money every time they sell an app from iTunes, or a Mac, or an iPod from their web site, just because they're more successful than others? The TiPb Store pays for their traffic... do they owe their "highway" more money from each item they sell?
Yes, I get your point about the difference in size here, and I considered it also. But no other huge businesses, with huge traffic, that sell products online give a cut of their sales to those who supply the traffic. eBay and its users certainly don't pay extortion money just because they use twenty lanes of highway.
And I'd go even further by saying that their gripe probably has nothing to do with the amount of traffic, anyway... but rather what Dev said above about the bitterness they have for their own failied greed.
If carriers do have any point at all in this, it's that they do market and sell phones for Apple (which indirectly sells apps), but even that's a stretch, in my opinion. Surely, carriers must realize that Apple could sell iPhone apps (to be installed easily) from iTunes without them if they're bullied enough for a percentage.
It'll be interesting to see what happens with this.

Since when is it 'evil' for a publicly traded company to be 'greedy'? They are obligated to make money for their shareholders.
As for Symbian, failure to innovate constantly isn't someone else's fault. He should stop trying to blame others for their failures and get to work changing his company.

I would love to see the stats on...
what apps are downloaded via Edge/3G -VS- apps that are downloaded via WiFi and/or installed during sync.

@ rob
good point most of the time you go to download a large app ATT will not do it and tells you to find WiFi I do most of my downloading at home for that reason

The previous poster is correct. Symbian had their chance. Instead of building their platform and innovating, they did nothing. Apple saw the opening and built the world's greatest phone. Google and the others are simply copy cat products. Long live Apple!

If a carrier wants a cut of the money on the apps I've downloaded over a 3G connection to cover their infrastructure, are they going to give a rebate for the apps I've downloaded over a wifi connection, thus easing their infrastructure overhead????

I pay extra for text messaging on top of an unlimited data plan. Want to talk about unfair...what is text messaging, if not data? Cry me a river carriers. Hard to feel sorry for somone that robs you on a monthly basis.