Well, yes the BeanFactory and ApplicationContext can be considered a "container" but not like a web container or ejb container. a Container in such that it holds your instance of your Spring Beans inside a "glorified map" as I like to call it. It handles the lifecycle of your objects, like a container would do. But it isn't a monolithic object, so to speak, as say compared to a real full "container"
It is just symantics here that you disagree with your friend. His definition of container is not the same definition of container that you have. It really isn't about Spring itself.