Google Loses Arthur Levinson amid Growing Competition with Apple

Google board member Arthur Levinson steps down from Google's board more than two months after Google CEO Eric Schmidt vacated his seat on Apple's board. Schmidt and Levinson had come under scrutiny this year from the Federal Trade Commission, which was concerned that the men's positions on both Google and Apple's boards violated the Clayton Antitrust Act. The moves come as Google and Apple are opposing each other on the battlefields of mobile phones, and eventually, operating systems.

Arthur Levinson, the former Genentech CEO who held positions on both Google and Apple's board of directors quit his post at Google Oct. 13, severing another tie between Google and Apple.

The move comes more than two months after Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from his post as an Apple board member.

Schmidt and Levinson this year drew scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission. The agency was concerned that the men's positions on both boards violated the Clayton Antitrust Act barring executives from competing companies serving on each other's board where it might reduce competition.

Schmidt quit his post at Apple in August after concerns that Google and Apple were opposing each other on the battlefields of mobile phones, and eventually, operating systems.

Apple sells the iPhone, the world's most popular smartphone. Google offers Android, a new mobile operating system that is finding its way onto several smartphones and U.S. carriers, including T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. Apple also makes its Mac OS X computer operating system, and Google is building its Chrome Operating System, slated to appear on netbooks on 2010.

Google and Apple also make competing applications. Google applied to get a version of its Google Voice phone management application on the iPhone, but Apple rejected it, touching off outrage from developers and inviting the scrutiny of the Federal Communications Commission.

Though Apple promotes Google Maps on its iPhone, the company acquired Placebase, which makes software that would compete with Google Maps. Though it is not clear what Apple is doing with that acquisition, it is obvious the companies are finding more ways to butt heads.

Application competition notwithstanding, the fact that two companies would offer mobile and PC operating systems was enough to raise red flags at the FTC. And with Verizon Wireless embracing Android, it now seems Google and Verizon Wireless will be lining up against Apple and lone iPhone carrier AT&T.

It's become clear that Google and Apple are heading on more than one collision course, making it difficult for the two rivals to gang up against common foe Microsoft, which was one of the reasons Schmidt joined Apple's board in August 2006.

With competition growing from red-hot to white-hot, Levinson's departure from Google or Apple's board became of a question of when instead of if.

"Art has been a key part of Google's success these past five years, offering unvarnished advice and vital counsel on every big issue and opportunity Google has faced," Schmidt said about Levinson, who began serving on Google's board in April 2004. "Though he leaves as a member of our Board, Art will always have a special place at Google."

The FTC, which had threatened legal action against the companies, praised Levinson's decision in a statement:

"Google, Apple and Mr. Levinson should be commended for recognizing that overlapping board members between competing companies raise serious antitrust issues, and for their willingness to resolve our concerns without the need for litigation," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. "Beyond this matter, we will continue to monitor companies that share board members and take enforcement actions where appropriate."