Schmidt's Exit from Apple's Board Will Help, Not Hurt Innovation at Google & Apple

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-08-03 Print this article Print

There are a couple ways to look at Google CEO Eric Schmidt's exit, or his ouster by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, from Apple's board today.

One way is that Google and Apple apart won't be able to marshal the same kind of technological force to take on Microsoft. That Schmidt's dismissal from the board signals Apple and Google will stop working on products that take on Microsoft. Instead, Android is pitted versus iPhone and the Chrome operating system is targeted at Mac OS X.

You might argue that Google won't be able to build good mobile applications for the iPhone because Apple will shut them out. Or you might believe Apple will suffer because Google applications won't continue to be available on the iPhone.

I believe Google and Apple will go in another, more focused direction as they embark on this burgeoning rivalry. After all, we've already seen Google and Apple compromise here.

Remember, less than two weeks ago when Google launched Google Latitude for the iPhone. Google had originally written a native Latitude iPhone program.

Apple, it turned out, rejected this and asked for a Web app version. Google acceded, compromised or kowtowed depending on how you look at it. So Google and Apple can cooperate even as they compete with Android and the iPhone.

Now with Schmidt gone from Apple's board, there will be no awkward pauses in meetings as Schmidt is asked to step out while Jobs and others discuss the iPhone, Mac OS X or other competing products. Instead, Schmidt will remain in Mountain View while Jobs lords over his fiefdom in Cupertino 8 miles away.

This decision, which should have been made a year ago when Google and T-Mobile were revving the Android-powered T-Mobile G1 smartphone, is great for both companies from a smartphone perspective.

Innovation on Google Android and the iPhone will only get better. It's too early to speak to how Chrome OS will do. Right now, it's vaporware to us.

Think about it. There will be no tap-dancing around the issues, no worrying about whether this app or this move hurts the other vendor. Instead, the companies will develop as if they are at war with one another, and that competitive fire will yield better products. As Om Malik noted:

Why do we believe that these two companies are not in competition with each other? Is it because Eric Schmidt sits on the Apple board? This battle between Google and Apple is going to get very ugly—as it should. Both companies have pinned their futures on smartphones.

He also suggested Apple kick out Google's apps in favor of Microsoft's Bing search engine. Whoaaa. That would be interesting.

Of course, there is also the matter of Google Voice, the Web calling management system that duplicates features on the iPhone and reduces AT&T, the carrier that supports it, to a dumb pipe.

Consumers prefer their communications and data services fueled free by Google without getting dinged by the carriers' costs. Neither Apple nor AT&T can have this because it's disruptive to their symbiotic relationship. This is where the battle is currently focused, and it will get uglier.

Indeed, now the FCC is sticking its head in, demanding to know what's going on.

We can talk all we want about how Android and the iPhone compete, but we all know Android is hardly a player compared with the iPhone. It's Google Voice that is serving as the true fire starter between Google and Apple.

Google and Apple have now entered into a grander, more severe scenario of competition. Instead of Google and Apple taking on Microsoft together, Google will compete with Apple and vice versa. Both vendors will continue to take on the software giant, separately.

We knew this day would come; it was just a matter of time before Google's methodical march across the Web upset the Apple cart. Now be prepared for better products borne out of feverish desire to win in mobile.

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