CEOs, like children, squabble sometimes, and publicly rail against one another in the name of corporate positioning. But usually the dueling suits occupy the same product market, or are somehow competing. This doesn't appear to be the case with the global chairman and CEO of Netgear, Patrick Lo, who for no clear reason attacked Steve Jobs and Apple in the Australian press. And instead of bolstering Netgear's reputation, Lo's comments came off smug, cruel and confused.
Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Lo said that Apple's success was centered on "closed and proprietary products" that would soon be overtaken by open platforms like Google's Android. True enough: Android just became the world's leading smartphone platform, according to Canalys. But despite those numbers, iOS is crushing elsewhere: the iPad has 90 per cent of the tablet market, for instance.
Lo went further to say that this closed model has worked in the past because, in many product categories, like MP3 players, "they own the market," and that the reason Apple keeps it locked down - like not enabling Flash support in iOS, for instance - is due to Jobs' "ego."
Lo does predict that Apple will open its platform, though -- when Steve Jobs moves on.
"Once Steve Jobs goes away, which is probably not far away, then Apple will have to make a strategic decision on whether to open up the platform," Lo said.
Steve Jobs recently took a second leave of absence from Apple due to recurring health problems. Does that stop Lo from kicking Jobs when he's down? Nope!
But maybe this cattiness is rooted in Lo's emotional insecurity. When Lo was asked if he had communicated his concerns to Jobs, he said: "Steve Jobs doesn't give me a minute!" Sounds to me like he's feeling a little abandoned on the playground and nobody will come to his birthday party, despite renting a horsie.
Lo's comments are harsh, for sure. They're also so misguided and confused.
Final parting irony: check out Netgear's page on its AV Series. See that stereo beside the TV? That's a (now discontinued) iPod Hi-Fi, with a (now discontinued) iPod plugged in. Netgear's marketing department needs a serious overhaul.
UPDATE: Lo later issued a statement in which he said: "I stand by the opinions I stated on the business issues. Supporting open standards and environments in order to ease seamless networking integration of multimedia content is good for the consumer and good for content providers.
However, I deeply regret the choice of words I used in relation to business decisions Apple must grapple with in the future in relation to open vs. closed systems, which have been construed by some to be references to Steve Jobs’ health and which was never my intention. I sincerely apologize that what I said was interpreted this way, and I wish Steve only the very best."
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