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Global CIO: Inside Steve Jobs' Head: The Supremacy Of Software

Jobs reveals some of the strategic thinking that's made Apple perhaps the most innovative and wealthy company on the planet.
"Unlike Windows, however, where most PCs have the same user interface and run the same apps, Android is very fragmented," Jobs said. "Many of Android's OEMs, including the two largest—HTC and Motorola—have decided to install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience."

As a result, Jobs said, "the users will have to figure it all out. Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same."

And Jobs then offered a striking example, saying that when a Twitter reader called TwitterDeck introduced its Android app, the company had to "contend with more than 100 different versions of Android software on 244 different handsets," a situation that Jobs said presents "developers with a daunting challenge."

In addition, he said, "Many Android apps work only on select Android handsets running select Android versions. And this is for handsets that have been shipped less than 12 months ago. Compare this with iPhone, where there are just two versions of the software: the current one, and the most recent predecessor to test against."

On the distribution, marketing, and consumption side, Jobs also hammered away at the Google approach, saying apps will be splintered across four different online stores, which will require customers to "search among them to find they app they want" while also forcing developers to do more work in order to "distribute their apps and get paid."

All in all, Jobs said, the Google/Android approach "is going to be a mess for both users and developers." Apple intends to avoid stepping in that mess, he said, by sticking with the integrated approach: "We think our developers can be more innovative if they can target a single platform rather than a hundred variants. They can put their time into innovative new features rather than testing on hundreds of different handsets."

That's his real focus, isn't it: create business models that allow your people to devote the overwhelming majority of their time to create customer-centered excellence rather than in being tied to internally driven busywork that might or might not have an impact on customers.

And finally, on the subject of 10-inch tablets versus 7-inch, here's a classic bit of Jobs wisdom: insightful, untraditional, somewhat wise-ass, and ultimately intensely rooted in the Apple vision of brilliantly integrated systems predicated not on selling more hardware or software but on dazzling users.

And while I'm not saying this comment will destroy the market for 7-inch tablets, it sure will raise some brutal questions about it:

"Well you could increase the resolution of the display to make up for some of that difference," Jobs said about the limitations of 7-inch screens.

"But that would be meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that users can sand down their fingers to about one-quarter of their present size. Apple's done extensive user-testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff.

"There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touchscreen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them. And this is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps."

In closing, before we put the lid back on Steve Jobs' brain, take one last look at his point about perspective and point-of-view with which we opened this piece:

"You're looking at it wrong. You're looking at it as a hardware person in a fragmented world. You're looking it as a hardware manufacturer that doesn't really know much about software, who doesn't think about an integrated product, but assumes the software will somehow take care of itself. . . . And you assume that the software will somehow just come alive on this product that you're dreaming of, but it won't."

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GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].