Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) co-founder Larry Page revealed that late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs reached out to him after he took the CEO helm in April, a sign that Jobs cared for Google despite the increasingly intense competition between the companies.
Jobs passed away Oct. 5 from complications with pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, marking a sad end to a legendary man who inspired people with his passion for consumer electronic design, solid leadership skills and flair for showmanship.
Jobs co-founded Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1977, was ousted in 1985 and returned in 1997 to restore the company's tarnished luster. Jobs would go on to launch the best-selling iMac desktop computer, iPod music player, iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet computer over the next decade.
A triumvirate of Google executives--Page, co-founder Sergey Brin and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt--bid farewell to Jobs in statements to the press. But it was Page's statement, which he published to his Google+ page, that was most telling. Page wrote:
"I am very, very sad to hear the news about Steve. He was a great man with incredible achievements and amazing brilliance. He always seemed to be able to say in very few words what you actually should have been thinking before you thought it. His focus on the user experience above all else has always been an inspiration to me. He was very kind to reach out to me as I became CEO of Google and spend time offering his advice and knowledge even though he was not at all well. My thoughts and Google's are with his family and the whole Apple family."
The point about Jobs taking time to encourage Page, who turned over the reins to Schmidt a decade earlier, speaks to Jobs' character. Jobs looked ill when he appeared on stage to launch the iPad 2 in March, yet he somehow managed to speak to Page, who became Google's CEO one month later.
This despite the fact that Google under Schmidt had managed to raise Jobs' ire and competitive fire several times.
Jobs was reportedly furious at long-time Apple board member Schmidt when he learned that Android devices would be coming to the market that resembled Apple's popular iPhone. Feeling betrayed, he ousted Schmidt from the board in August 2009.
At a town hall meeting in January 2010, Jobs noted: "We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake, they want to kill the iPhone. We won't let them." In March 2010, Apple would sue HTC, whose Droid Incredible phone closely resembled the iPhone.
The rivalry between Apple and Google grew more heated after Google Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra explained the reason for building Android, noting that if "Google did not act we faced a Draconian future, a future where one man, one company, one device, one carrier would be our only choice."
On Apple's October 2010 earnings call, Jobs lashed out at Google and Android, denigrating the open-source platform:
"In reality, 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 vs. 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."
That was nearly a year ago this month. Jobs made no other attacks on Google or Android, at least not publicly. He left it to the courts to handle. Apple's lawyers go on to sue Android OEMs, Motorola Mobility, which Google is now trying to acquire, and Samsung.
Now we learn Jobs that offered friendly words to Page. The gesture suggested that while Apple and Google are competitors, it didn't mean that Jobs abhorred Google's leadership. Jobs demonstrated that he legitimately cared to see Page succeed.