A sign of the times: Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google and member of the board of Apple since summer 2006, has suddenly resigned his position. His departure is direct evidence that the era of peaceful co-existence between the two companies is over and a new period of head-to-head competition is about to dawn, writes Martyn Warwick.
Mr. Schmidt's resignation comes even as US federal watchdogs try to decide if Apple and Google have been in breach of American antitrust legislation because they have been effectively sharing two board members.
That Google's CEO would be on Apple's board at all and under any circumstances seems pretty strange but no doubt it seemed like a good idea at the time. However, in recent months, as it has become more and more obvious that Apple and Google are on a competitive collision course.
Apple's chief executive, Steve Jobs, has said that Mr. Scmidt's input would perforce be "significantly diminished" as Google's boss would not be allowed to attend meetings where sensitive proprietary information would be discussed.
As is the usual form and formula in such cases, Eric Schmidt dutifully issued a suitably bland but opaque farewell statement. He said, “I have very much enjoyed my time on the Apple board. It’s a fantastic company.
But we’ve agreed it makes sense for me to step down now.”
His departure comes within days of Google announcing that it is developing a PC operating system based on its own "Chrome" browser. The strategy is in direct competition not only to Apple but also to Microsoft - but Eric Schmidt isn't on the Microsoft board.
Gogle's formerly chummy relationship with Apple has soured on other fronts. Google's Android operating system for mobile comms devices is a competitor to the iPhone and Apple has recently declined to accept two applications that Google wanted to present and sell via the allegedly "open" Apple App Store. That decision too is under federal investigation.
Schmidt's resignation also shows how quickly things are moving in terms of the incipient competition between the two companies. Only two months ago Google's c CEP pooh-poohed suggestions that he might have to resign because of a looming clash of interests. He said, "I'm not contemplating that. I don't see Apple as a primary competitor".
Steve Jobs sees Google as one though.
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