Monday, August 3, 2009

Key Google frenemy less friendly

Eric Schmidt resigned today from the Apple board of directors. The official Apple announcement does fit the definition of “terse”:

Dr. Eric Schmidt Resigns from Apple’s Board of Directors

CUPERTINO, California—August 3, 2009—Apple® today announced that Dr. Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer of Google, is resigning from Apple’s Board of Directors, a position he has held since August 2006.

“Eric has been an excellent Board member for Apple, investing his valuable time, talent, passion and wisdom to help make Apple successful,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple’s Board.”

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s blah blah blah
I like the lead by Mike Harvey of the Times of London for putting it into perspective:
In May Eric Schmidt was laughing off the idea that he might have to resign from the board of Apple.

The Google chief executive has been a director for three years, brought in by Steve Jobs because of his experience at promoting innovation. In 2006, the companies were barely operating in the same field. Google was huge in search and online advertising while Apple was a classy maker of computer hardware and proprietary software.

But then Apple launched the iPhone and Mr Schmidt had to begin to excuse himself from board meetings that discussed it …

This resulted in May in the US government's decision to open an inquiry into the two companies’ “interlocking directorates” under the Clayton Antritrust Act. Mr Schmidt responded by saying that because the companies were not “primary competitors”, there would be no problem with the Federal Trade Commission's investigation.

But how quickly things change again. Google has announced that it will launch its own operating system, called ChromeOS, to power laptop computers. That really does plant the company firmly in Apple's backyard. It means that consumers will be faced with a direct choice not only on mobile phones running Google Android operating system and Apple iPhone OS X system but also on computers between ChromeOS and Apple's Mac OS X.

Mr Schmidt said at the time that he would need to clarify his position as a director with Apple - as Apple's statement from Mr Jobs makes clear today, it would have meant Mr Schmidt excusing himself from large portions of Apple board meetings.
Harvey claims that the Google Voice iPhone kerfuffle was the last straw. However, since Apple will eventually have to give in as it did on iTunes DRM — and almost certainly knows this — that seems unlikely to me.

Perhaps this means that no firm of any size can really be a close friend of Google. When you are an integrated IT company that makes just about everything except hardware. And when you’re seeking Total World Domination — even through soft power — you’re bound to make some enemies.

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