Maggie Shiels

Schmidt and Jobs part company

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 4 Aug 09, 08:40 GMT

The clock has been running down on the Apple/Google relationship for some time.

Really it came as no surprise that Eric Schmidt left the Apple board given all the attention that it has garnered for months and months. Everyone saw the writing on the wall when the Federal Trades Commission waded in earlier in the year with its plan to probe the relationship and work out what it meant for competition and anti-trust laws.

Google paintingMr Schmidt is a very smart man in charge of a billion-dollar company and I would hazard a guess that he also saw that things could not go on as they had, even though he excused himself from board meetings when the iPhone was discussed.

My betting is he wanted to give up the job on his own terms and when it suited his agenda and not someone else's. It is highly unusual for a director to leave a board before his or her tenure is up.

Back in May, Mr Schmidt told reporters like myself at a round table that the question of quitting the board position was not one he had considered even in light of the government's interest. I would go out on a limb and say no-one there really swallowed that line.

So what was the straw that broke the camel's back? This is pure guesswork I admit, but the timing cannot be ignored.

As I have reported in my main news story, plenty of people are pointing to the move by the FCC to investigate why the iPhone app store rejected Google's mobile application.

It will certainly be interesting to see how deep that inquiry will be given the dissatisfaction by a number of developers who get rejected and are given no clear idea why.

As regards the Apple/Google affair, the FTC has since come out and said its investigation of the overlapping directorship issue will continue, perhaps proving that had Mr Schmidt resigned earlier this would have been one less regulatory probe the company could have avoided.

John Simpson at the Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit organisation, has applauded Mr Schmidt's move but at the same time criticised the "clubby atmosphere" that prevails in Silicon Valley where everyone seems to be on one another's board.

I don't doubt that this happens in other sectors, like say banking. But it is worth noting that there is a new sheriff in town and regulators are taking a tough line with what is going on in Silicon Valley.

Jo-Ellen Pozner, who is an assistant professor of organisational behaviour at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, said that because the technology industry is so all-pervasive in our lives and in society, she would not be surprised by even further regulatory scrutiny.

Her advice is for the industry to get out ahead of the issue and be seen to be taking such issues seriously and only cleave to those directors you really need.

"If the industry regulates itself, it can forestall any scrutiny from investors and regulators."

If only Google and Apple had acted sooner, this might have been one headache it wouldn't have had to worry about.


  • Comment number 1.

    Unsurprising given the massive conflicts of interest that exist between Google and Apple now.

  • Comment number 2.

    This is about Android, Chrome OS, and regulatory problems surrounding the fact that Google and Apple's board shared two members (which, by the way, is why the investigation might continue - Schmidt wasn't the only Google Director at Apple). It's surely highly unlikely that the app store caused this, but both issues point to a new era in which the two companies' interests are not aligned even as they step up against Microsoft in personal computing.

  • Comment number 3.

    All in all a bad week for Apple I'd say - this decision by Schmidt indicates that battle between Google and Apple is stepping up, the FCC investigation will probably open up Apple's App Store mechanisms to all sorts of unpleasant scrutiny and then there's the news that Apple tried to gag people who asked for refunds from faulty iPods. It all indicates that the gloss is coming off that polished Golden Delicious - about time!

  • Comment number 4.

    I'd love to know what these conflicts of interest are. As far as I am aware, Apple Inc. make hardware and software that work together (ie: you can't install iPhone OS on a Motorola Q), and Google are a search engine company who have an open source browser, open source phone OS available to anyone, and are beginning to develop an open source computer OS.

    Hey FTC, why don't you take a look at all the stock manipulators that are making a killing? What took you so long to catch Bernie Madoff? Too much like hard work to track the real criminals, it's much easier to make a smokescreen by saying Apple and Google are in cahoots (still like to know what they're in cahoots over).

    And don't even get me started on Micro$oft/Yahoo! - revenue revenue revenue (and they even said so themselves).

  • Comment number 5.

    What are people saying about this on Twitter?

  • Comment number 6.

    @5 - I actually laughed out loud when I read that!

  • Comment number 7.

    as an iPhone user I hope that the situation gets sorted out as its a bizarre one. Apple and Google clearly have a very good relationship with each other, however the fact Apple made Google change there centrepiece iPhone application from standalone to web-based (which makes many of the sub-applications pointless - e.g. Latitude) worrying. Not from an Apple point of view, they are just trying to protect there market from competitors, but from Googles perspective as they just took it without making a fuss despite the fact that Apples decision is not in Googles or the users interest. When 'competitors' are in cahoots, there is no competition, which clearly makes this a bad situation for the end-user.

  • Comment number 8.

    I always enjoy comments depicting Microsoft (with an S) as evil when Google and Apple are just as profit based as them. What are Apple and Google individuals goals? I'm sure it goes along the lines of making more money just like MS.

    "Surely not" users cry "Apple and Google make sexy devices/apps which we eat for breakfast they must love us?"

    Believe one thing and one thing only every one of them wants your cash and one of them isn't as good at PR than the other two. One day they will have destroyed the rest of the competition and left us with 3 alternatives! Or is that 2 when Apple and Google finally get married?

    Come on people wake up to the fact neither of them give a jot about you and only care about your money. What do you think would happen if we had no cash to spend on their goods? They wouldn't give a monkeys' that's what they would move on and find other customers to sell their silver sleek and sexy wares to.

    Oh and any mention of the Apple/Google love story having no impact upon what we get at the end of the day and the choices we are given are, frankly, shortsighted.

    Quick everyone go back to sleep and keep spending money follow the crowd to Apple. After all, this will make you all unique anarchists as you are all staying away from Microsoft. Download Firefox from Mozilla (Yeah I brought them up) and be unique along with the other 1 billion downloaders of it... Use Bling and avoid the evils of Google...

    Or how about we all take a reality check and realise what little choice we have is still good and stop boring each other with pointless little wars over brands. Brands which don't care about us and frankly would be happier if they could make money without us all. Should we really be arguing with each other over someone else making money off of us? And who does it better!?!

    Tell you what Jobs, Gates and co must be sitting on piles of money laughing at the usual arguing that goes on between us all. No... Wait they're not. They don't care.

    Of course I buy products or use the services provided by these companies. But I'mn not trying to kid myself they want to be my friend.

    Here comes the hollier than thou bit from fans who are annoyed with me... Right... Here>>>>

  • Comment number 9.

    D4lien strikes the anti - corporate gong again and as usual is on the money (;-)

    Apple, M$ (sorry), Google and all the others are after our pounds to pay the share holders. Business is as business does.

    No, none of them are our friends, merely suppliers of products we either want, think we want, need, think we need or do not need at all, but we still buy them.

    Some are better at telling us we need them and some are not very good at keeping us interested.

    Some are better at shiny some are merely dull, whilst some are extremely clever others miss the point.

    All a bit like people. Some have everything but see nothing. Some have very little but are fulfilled.

    It's all about the people........

  • Comment number 10.

    Hmm interesting blog but a little pointless and about Apple again.

    I share the same views as D4lien. Apple, Google, et al don't care about us other than our hard earned $ so why should we give two hoots about what's going on over at Apple/Google towers?

    On a day when China has apparently been outed for killing a web addict who was forced to go to rehab for his "addiction" I think you could have found something more interesting to blog about. Or would that topic have been a bit too dangerous for the BBC to allow people to comment on?

  • Comment number 11.

    Yes one needs to ask the question why the iPhone doesn't have a browser ballot screen.
    Or why I can't have Bing as my default search on my iPhone.

    Also, if Opera, Firefox, Chrome and Safari all default to Google as a web browser, and only IE defaults to something different, surely a new Windows user has a 4/5 chance of ending up using Google (without knowing it)? The EU is helping Google increase it's search monopoly. Shame on them, and yes it's about time Apple fell out of bed with Google.

  • Comment number 12.

    Just on a quick, semi on topic thought. Have the posts on the blog slowed down recently?

    Is it because nothing's happened on twitter?

    What opinions have our bloggers on the Yahoo mergery thing?

  • Comment number 13.

    @ 12 FYI

    the blogs have slowed down recently i think the reson is if you read rorys blog on bing he has gone on holls

    "As you may have guessed from one of my searches, I'm now off on holiday for a couple of weeks. I'm sure there'll be plenty to catch up on when I get back"

    looks like we may have a influx of bloggs when he gets back.

    P.s hope you have a good one Rory you deserve it, Ill look faward to your return so i have somthing to read at work.

  • Comment number 14.

    @11 "Yes one needs to ask the question why the iPhone doesn't have a browser ballot screen.
    Or why I can't have Bing as my default search on my iPhone."

    I think the browser ballot thing is totally idiotic for Windows - patronising or confusing depending on the user - and we shouldn't extend it elsewhere. Whether Apple should open App approvals is another thing.

    Bing will soon power Yahoo, so if you prefer Bing's results, switch your default iPhone search to Yahoo!

  • Comment number 15.

    Both are technology Leaders.Would be interesting to follow the next moves by each company.


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