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Tuesday, 04 August 2009 01:10

Declaration of war as Google CEO Schmidt quits Apple board

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Dr Eric Schmidt, CEO at Google, has been a Director of Apple for almost exactly three years - until today. As he steps down we ask if this means that Apple and Google are now officially at war?

Steve Jobs says that Schmidt has been "an excellent Board member for Apple" and thanks him for "investing his valuable time, talent, passion and wisdom to help make Apple successful." You cannot help but notice the irony in that statement as the Google CEO quits in what some are interpreting as an all out declaration of war.

Apple CEO Jobs says that the resignation was a mutual decision, based upon the fact that "as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest."

However, one cannot help but notice that the announcement has been made by Apple, with comment only from Steve Jobs and with Eric Schmidt maintaining a somewhat telling silence. It makes you question just how friendly and mutual the decision to depart Apple really was.

Indeed, the official Apple statement cannot resist a final dig at Google by adding that it is Apple which leads the industry in terms of innovation, especially with the revolutionary iPhone.

Schmidt might see it slightly differently, not so much because of the much hyped Chrome OS but rather thanks to the Android effect which will undoubtedly be worrying the Apple Board. Going to war with Google is probably not something it really wants to be doing.

Yet Apple pretty much fired the first shots by denying Google Voice as an iPhone App and pulling all related applications from the store. Apple says that it was to save the poor iPhone user from getting confused between iPhone voice features and Google Voice. Yeah right.

The Federal Communications Commission does not seem to be buying that, and is currently investigating the reasoning behind the move. Apple are unlikely to come out of this looking in any way, shape or form angelic.

But what about Schmidt, and Google? Can Apple win a war against the search giant, and does it really want to try?

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Schmidt is probably not buying it either, and I suspect it might have been the straw that broke the CEO's back as far as continuing to sleep with the enemy was concerned. A decision that is likely to be beneficial to Google and could cost Apple dearly.

Why so? Well Apple has had Google to thank along the way for at least some of the success of the iPhone as far as consumers are concerned. Think about it, where would the iPhone be without YouTube, Google Maps, Google search and so on?

By increasingly kicking Google to the kerb in terms of native application access, Apple could have picked upon the wrong kid to try and bully in this particular playground. Google ain't the skinny ginger kid for a start, and is not short of influential friends for a finish.

Will Schmidt be crying in the corner now that Apple is not his bestest friend? I doubt it. Rather I suspect he will be playing more and more with the likes of Research in Motion for example. After all, Google Voice can go native on BlackBerry without a fight.

More importantly, as Android continues to get a grip I think you will find Google playing with itself more and more. Why should it bring the best of Google apps to the likes of Apple? Why should iPhone users have the best Google experience going forward?

Much more likely that the best Google experience will be found on Android handsets within the shortest of timeframes. The second best experience will be with the rest of the smart phone pack, all of whom will be queuing up to make friends.

Which leaves Apple and the iPhone looking like the school bully which nobody likes. Apple has been accused of being cocky before now, and has made some very bizarre decisions.

But could entering a full on war with Google be one of the most arrogant, and ultimately most stupid, things that Steve Jobs has ever done?

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