Google chairman (and former CEO) Eric Schmidt thinks that his company’s Android mobile operating system is “more secure than the iPhone,” according to a ZDNet reporter attending this year’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo.
Apple would probably take issue that that statement, but there’s a reason for Schmidt’s boldness: facing an auditorium filled with analysts and businesspeople, he needed to push Android’s suitability for enterprise use. While Android has swallowed significant portions of the tablet and smartphone markets, the software faces the popular perception that it’s less polished—and possibly more bug-prone—than Apple’s iOS. (The audience laughed when Schmidt made his assertion.)
Schmidt also played down the idea that Android is the most fragmented of the mainstream mobile operating systems, despite running in multiple versions on multiple devices from multiple vendors. “With Android we have an agreement for vendors that you keep the Android stores compatible and that is a great breakthrough for Android,” he told the audience, according to The Verge.
Schmidt believes that app compatibility matters more than every Android device running the latest, and presumably most secure, version of the software. But is his assertion actually true? That depends how you define “Android.” Amazon heavily customized Android for its Kindle Fire tablets, cutting off access to the Google Play storefront in the process; while a number of developers have ported over their apps to Amazon’s own app store, there are significant gaps (for example, Amazon requires that Kindle Fire owners rely on the built-in Silk browser, rather than allowing them to download Chrome or another Internet cruiser). It’s possible that other manufacturers could, in the process of modifying Android to their own ends, cut off the operating system’s ability to communicate with Google’s app store.
But the Kindle Fire is primarily a consumption device, meant for easy downloading of e-books and streaming content. Given his audience, Schmidt was clearly referring to the “mainstream” Android devices that can be used for productive ends in addition to consuming media.
Schmidt also added that Google remains paranoid about security: “If Google were to have a significant data breach today, of any kind, it would be terrible for the company.” That means locking down not only Google’s datacenters from external and internal threats, but also its core products—including Android.