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Best Mobile Phone Industry Insults, CEO Rants and Arguments

written by: Jefe Nubarrón•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/19/2011

The mobile telephone and smartphone markets are brutally competitive. Nowhere is this ultra-competitive environment more on display than in the rants and insults germinating in the CEOs and VPs of the market leading companies, whether Apple, Microsoft, Nokia or Google, the hits just keep coming.

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    Apple's Steve Jobs

    Steve Jobs has long been a fount of pithy quotes and insults. He has long held both a scathing wit and brutal honesty. Take this classic from 1983:

    “Oh, yeah, and I suppose you both dropped acid on your way to Cupertino this morning?”

    That was directed at David Bunnell and Andrew Fluegelman of the soon to be "Macworld" magazine, who had asserted an allegiance to the Grateful Dead after Jobs put them on their heels by asking, “What makes you think a dull PC guy like yourself can appreciate an elegant machine for artists like the Macintosh?”

    Later, in 2006, Mark Parker had just taken over as the CEO of Nike. Apple and Nike were collaborating on the Nike Plus and Jobs offered this bit of sage advice:

    "Get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff."

    Fast forward to the iPhone era and Jobs' hits keep coming. Whether directing his attention to the mobile phone status quo or the iPhone's nearest competitor, Google's Android, he has never been one to hold his punches. Steve Jobs on the birth of the iPhone:

    "We all had cellphones. We just hated them, they were so awful to use. The software was terrible. The hardware wasn't very good. We talked to our friends, and they all hated their cellphones too. Everybody seemed to hate their phones."

    In October of 2010, on an Apple conference call to discuss the Apple Q4 results with analysts, Jobs came out swinging against Google's 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. [...] 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 is left to figure it all out! Compare this with iPhone where every handset works the same. [...] The multiple hardware and software iterations present developers with a daunting challenge [...] This is going to be a mess for both users and developers! [...] Even if Google were right and the real issue is closed versus open, it is worthwhile to remember that open systems don't always win ... we think the open versus closed argument is just a smokescreen!"

    This diatribe by Steve Jobs received plenty of coverage in the press. It was soon followed by a rare tweet by Android founder and current Google VP Andy Rubin:

    the definition of open: “mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make”

    The tweet is effectively a command line bitch-slap of Steve Jobs. It doubly highlights Android’s openness, both by illustrating the relative simplicity of developing on Android -- in contrast to the hurdles to develop for iOS -- and demonstrating how easy it is to acquire the Android kernel source code itself.

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    Nokia

    Nokia continues to dominate the global mobile phone market. The Finnish technology powerhouse also continues to be the source of quotable quotes. In October of 2010, Anssi Vanjoki, the departing leader of Nokia’s smartphone division, likened the adoption of Google’s Android software by mobile phone manufacturers to Finnish boys who “pee in their pants” for warmth during the winter months. His insinuation is that the temporary relief of Google's Android will be followed by an even worse situation, where margins and revenues are slashed.

    In early February, 2011, relatively new Nokia CEO Stephen Elop delivered a brutally honest memo to the troops at Nokia. It included the harsh assessment that:

    "The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable."

    Elop compared the situation at Nokia to that of a man on a burning oil platform in the harsh North Sea winter who is contemplating whether he should jump into the icy Atlantic waters below:

    "Over the past few months, I've shared with you what I've heard from our shareholders, operators, developers, suppliers and from you. Today, I'm going to share what I've learned and what I have come to believe.

    I have learned that we are standing on a burning platform.

    And, we have more than one explosion - we have multiple points of scorching heat that are fuelling a blazing fire around us."

    A few days after this memo was leaked to the press, Nokia went on to announce a strategic partnership with Microsoft to deliver Nokia phone hardware paired with the Windows Phone 7 operating system.

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    Microsoft's Steve Ballmer

    In 2007, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously said,

    "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance."

    Ballmer went on to say that Apple might get 2% to 3% of the global phone market. At the end of 2010, according to asymco.com, the iPhone had captured 17.25% of the smartphone market and accounted for 4.2% of all phone share. From the perspective of profit and revenue share, the iPhone has been even more dominant. The current Microsoft CEO is also attributed with this diss of the iPhone from January 2007,

    "I said that is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good e-mail machine."

    A number of analysts, including Forbes a year ago, have predicted that the iPhone will overtake Research in Motion by the end of 2011. Steve Ballmer appears to have struck out on both his predictions.

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    References

    • Bunnell, David. "My Close Encounters With Steve Jobs: Meeting Steve", http://www.cultofmac.com/my-close-encounters-with-steve-jobs-meeting-steve/39023
    • Huffington Post, "Steve Jobs' Advice to Nike's CEO", http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/27/steve-jobs-advice-to-nike_n_553918.html
    • "Steve Jobs Speaks Out", Fortune, http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2008/fortune/0803/gallery.jobsqna.fortune
    • Siegler, MG. "Listen To Steve Jobs Rip Into Android And The Upcoming Tablet Competition", http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/18/steve-jobs-android-audio/
    • "Nokia", The Financial Times, September 21 2010.
    • Ziegler, Chris. "Nokia CEO Stephen Elop Rallies Troops in Brutally Honest 'Burning Platform' Memo", http://www.engadget.com/2011/02/08/nokia-ceo-stephen-elop-rallies-troops-in-brutally-honest-burnin/
    • Lieberman, David. "CEO Forum: Microsoft's Ballmer Having a 'Great Time'", http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2007-04-29-ballmer-ceo-forum-usat_N.htm
    • Paczkowski, John. "The iPhone Doesn’t Appeal to Business Customers at All?", http://digitaldaily.allthingsd.com/20081202/no-the-iphone-doesn't-appeal-to-business-customers-at-all/