Steve Jobs Disses BlackBerry, Google, and 7-inch Tablets

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs was on his company’s fourth quarter earnings call last night. It was a rare appearance but Jobs said, “I just couldn’t help dropping by for our first $20 billion quarter.” He also couldn’t help taking a few shots at the competition—specifically RIM, (makers of the BlackBerry handsets) and Google’s Android platform.

The entire audio webcast can be heard on Apple’s site, and has done a good job transcribing it as well. Here are the highlights.

(More on Techland: Gallery: Hits and Misses from Apple So Far)

On RIM and BlackBerry

“We’ve now passed RIM. And I don’t see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future. They must move beyond their area of strength and comfort, into the unfamiliar territory of trying to become a software platform company. I think it’s going to be a challenge for them to create a competitive platform and to convince developers to create apps for yet a third software platform after iOS and Android.”

On Android

“Google loves to characterize Android as ‘open,’ and iOS and iPhone as ‘closed’. We find this a bit disingenuous, and clouding the real difference between our two approaches. The first thing most of us think about when we hear the word ‘open’ is Windows, which is available on a variety of devices. Unlike Windows, however, where most PCs have the same user interface and run the same apps, Android is very fragmented. Many Android OEMs, including the two largest, HTC and Motorola, install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience. The user’s left to figure it all out. Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same.”

Jobs made no mention of Windows Phone 7, which is telling because the Windows Phone 7 platform will closely mimic the “every handset works the same” mentality and slick user interface of Apple’s iPhone platform while offering the carrier and device selection found with Android and BlackBerry.

(More on Techland: The 10 Best Camera Apps for the iPhone)

On 7-inch Tablets

“One naturally thinks that a seven-inch screen would offer 70 percent of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. The screen measurements are diagonal, so that a seven-inch screen is only 45 percent as large as iPad’s 10-inch screen. You heard me right: just 45 percent as large.”

“While one could increase the resolution of the display to make up some of the difference, it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one-quarter of their present size.”

“[E]very tablet user is also a smartphone user. No tablet can compete with the mobility of a smartphone. Its ease of fitting into your pocket or purse. Its unobtrusiveness when used in a crowd. Given that all tablet users will already have a smartphone in their pockets, giving up precious display area to fit a tablet in their pockets is clearly the wrong trade-off.

The seven-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone, and too small to compete with an iPad.”

“[O]ur potential competitors are having a tough time coming close to iPad’s pricing, even with their far smaller, far less expensive screens. The iPad incorporates everything we’ve learned about building high-value products, from iPhones, iPods and Macs. We create our own A4 chip, our own software, our own battery chemistry, our own enclosure, our own everything. And this results in an incredible product at a great price.

The proof of this will be in the pricing of our competitors’ products, which will likely offer less, for more. These are among the reasons that we think that the current crop of seven-inch tablets are going to be DOA—Dead on Arrival.”

The main takeaway? We probably shouldn’t expect a 7-inch iPad from Apple anytime soon. Jobs himself said as much:

“The reason we wouldn’t make a seven-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit a price point, it’s because we don’t think you can make a great tablet with a seven-inch screen. We think it’s too small to express the software that people want to put on these things. And we think, as a software-driven company, we think about the software strategies first. And we know that software developers aren’t going to deal real well with all these different sized products, when they have to re-do their software every time a screen size changes, and they’re not going to deal well with products where they can’t put enough elements on the screen to build the kind of apps they want to build.

So when we make decisions on seven-inch tablets, it’s not about cost, it’s about the value of the product when you factor in the software.”

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