How Steve Jobs' Relationship With Google Evolved

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-10-06 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This is how Google's homepage looks, one day after Apple founder Steve Jobs passed away after a long bout of illness that started with pancreatic cancer in 2004:

Google Jobs link.png

Clicking the link to Jobs' name takes you to Apple's homepage, which brought tears to my eyes when I saw it last night:

Jobs RIP.png

Simple. Tasteful, but elegant, the way Jobs himself might have designed it.

Why do I mention this on Google Watch, of all places? Good question. Other than a distant appreciation of the brand and a fear and loathing stemming from seeing Pod People with white headphones everywhere early on last decade, I never paid Apple much mind.

Then I took the job with eWEEK covering the Google beat in August 2007, not long after the first iPhone launched. Only months later -- November, I guess -- did I grok that Google and Apple would become more rivals than partners: Google announced Android.

Apple grew increasingly persnickety versus Google, denying Google Voice on the iPhone and other Google mobile apps because it feared they too closely disrupted iPhone functionality. I thought this was petty.

Since that time, a war of increasing attrition has bubbled up between the two companies. Jobs came to despise Google, booting then Google CEO Eric Schmidt from Apple's board in August 2009. This was a man he was friends enough to have dinner with, but then business got in the way.

Jobs, books on Google would later reveal, felt betrayed by Google and the Android phones he felt Google's OEM partners had cooked up to look like iPhones.

Jobs in early 2010 would say at a town hall meeting that Google is trying to kill the iPhone:

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.

I laughed this off as competitive paranoia. Now that Android has grown to over 40 percent worldwide market share, and seems to be the Microsoft Windows of mobile platforms, I'm not laughing. Jobs' feeling seems justified. Microsoft did, after all, copy Apple's Mac file systems in in the '80s (after Jobs himself lifted the ideas from Xerox' PARC).

Indeed, Apple would show just how defensive Android made it that it opened lawsuits, first against HTC in March 2010.

Jobs in October 2010 would deliver the defining rant against Android. It made me mad at the time. Here was this kingpin of a highly proprietary company, picking on Google's open-source platform:

"Google loves to characterize Android as 'open,' and iOS and iPhone as 'closed.' We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches. The first thing most of us think about when we hear the word 'open' is Windows, which is available on a variety of devices. Unlike Windows, however, where most PCs have the same user interface and run the same apps, Android is very fragmented. Many Android OEMs, including the two largest, HTC and Motorola, install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience. The user's left to figure it all out. Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same [way]."

Clearly, Jobs saw Android as a Windows-style wolf in open-source sheep's clothing. Given Android's rise to power and the fact that everyone is suing it, Jobs' fears appear confirmed.

Less than two weeks later, Jobs & Co. sued Motorola over multitouch in Android phones like the Droid and Droid X.

Apple wouldn't sue partner Samsung until April 2011.

One suspects the only thing keeping Apple from suing Google directly is that it didn't make the phones whose software Apple alleges infringes on handfuls of its patents. That's not to say it can't happen; if Google acquires Motorola it will inherit that existing patent litigation.

I expect Apple will aggressively pursue its cases versus Google in the future to defend its iOS devices. Jobs would want his company to protect those products for consumers and profit, at all costs.

I may not have always agreed with Jobs and Apple's increasingly litigious nature and defensiveness, but I learned to respect their right to protect themselves from market threats. Jobs wouldn't have wasted the effort if he didn't think it was worth it.

As consumers, we must respect that. RIP, Steve.

 
 
 
 
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