He was equally skeptical about Google's decision to develop smartphone software. Google bought a small start-up called Android several years ago, and a team of developers is now putting the finishing touches on an open-source smartphone operating system designed to rival both the iPhone and Microsoft's Windows Mobile software.
"Having created a phone its a lot harder than it looks," he said. "We'll see how good their software is and we'll see how consumers like it and how quickly it is adopted." In seeking not to get locked out of the mobile phone world, "I actually think Google has achieved their goal without Android, and I now think Android hurts them more than it helps them. It's just going to divide them and people who want to be their partners."
Could this be accurate? Could Android put Google into competition with its partners? And has Google gotten everything it wanted?
On point one, I think Jobs is right. Google desperately wants to get as many applications as it can on as many handsets as possible. While some handset makers have lined up to play ball with Android, others, including heavyweights such as Nokia and Research in Motion, have not. Will the arrival of Android phones on the market later this year create friction between Google and its current handset partners?
I don't think Android will force handset makers like RIM to stop working with Google, but it might give handset makers more incentive to work with Google's competitors, especially Yahoo or Microsoft. The only think Google has going for it on this front is that its mobile applications are just so much better than the competition's. But if either Yahoo or Microsoft can get its mobile application house in order...
As for Steve's second point, I am not convinced Google has everything it wants. Sure, the carriers are opening up, but we still don't know if Verizon, AT&T, and the rest of the gang will be as open as Google wants them to be.
And there is still no viable, totally open source handset technology in mass distribution.
I also think Jobs is playing defense here. He needs to make sure that the iPhone remains the hippest smartphone, and to that end he has to raise doubts about Android.
What do you think? Will Android backfire on Google and create more problems for Google than it solves?