Google likes to characterize Android as “open” and iOS/iPhone as “closed.” That puts Apple in a tough spot. Arguing for a closed system when the competition is offering an open one makes you seem like the bad guy.
But change the words being used and it becomes an entirely different debate. Closed vs. open is one thing, fragmented vs. integrated is something else. Look at how Steve Jobs reframes the issue during this conference call with analysts:
We think the open versus closed argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue, which is, “What’s best for the customer – fragmented versus integrated?” We think Android is very, very fragmented, and becoming more fragmented by the day. And as you know, Apple strives for the integrated model so that the user isn’t forced to be the systems integrator. We see tremendous value at having Apple, rather than our users, be the systems integrator. We think this a huge strength of our approach compared to Google’s: when selling the users who want their devices to just work, we believe that integrated will trump fragmented every time.
...So we are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as “closed.” And we are confident that it will triumph over Google’s fragmented approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as “open.”
Reframing in politics
Reminds me of how politicians use words to reframe issues. Consultant Frank Luntz advises Republicans to use phrases like “death tax” instead of “estate tax.”
Look, for years, political people and lawyers — who, by the way, are the worst communicators — used the phrase “estate tax.” And for years they couldn’t eliminate it. The public wouldn’t support it because the word “estate” sounds wealthy. Someone like me comes around and realizes that it’s not an estate tax, it’s a death tax, because you’re taxed at death. And suddenly something that isn’t viable achieves the support of 75 percent of the American people. It’s the same tax, but nobody really knows what an estate is. But they certainly know what it means to be taxed when you die.
Meanwhile, George Lakoff, a Professor of Linguistics at UC Berkeley, pushes liberals to reclaim terms like life, patriot, and family values.
Consider progressives across the country consistently saying something like this: “I am for life. That’s why I support the right of all women to receive prenatal care and the right of all children to receive immunizations and to be treated when they are sick. That’s why I believe we must safeguard the planet that sustains all life.”
Or perhaps this: “I am a patriot. That’s why I am compelled to oppose the government’s spying on American citizens without court order and in defiance of Congress.”
Say it again
At least Luntz and Lakoff agree on one thing: It’s all about repetition. Lakoff writes, “Repetition of such articulations is the key to redefining these words and reclaiming them.” Luntz says, “There’s a simple rule: You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again and again, and about the time that you’re absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time.”
So don’t be surprised if we hear more “fragmented vs. integrated” talk coming out of Cupertino.