In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published last night, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt shared some interesting perspective on the various legal threats facing his company, as well as the relationship between Apple and Google. He offered that the picture often painted in the media of immature squabbling is off-base, suggesting instead that the two companies are more like independent nation states trying to manage a trade relationship than fighting teenagers.
“The press would like to write the sort of teenage model of competition, which is, ‘I have a gun, you have a gun, who shoots first?',” Schmidt said in the interview with the Wall Street Journal's Jessica E. Lessin. “The adult way to run a business is to run it more like a country. They have disputes, yet they've actually been able to have huge trade with each other. They're not sending bombs at each other.”
Schmidt says he believes Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Larry Page share this state model view of the relationship between the two tech giants. Meetings between the two companies include long lists of things to adjust, Schmidt says, which are akin to independent, complex trade agreements between two countries who might cease some deals (i.e. YouTube as a pre-installed app, Maps) while others remain (Google search on iOS, native apps available in the App Store like Gmail).
Schmidt also addressed the legal battle between Google and Apple, which is mostly being fought by proxy through Google's Android hardware OEM partners. On this front, he says not to expect a resolution anytime soon, and also addresses where the fallout might be felt most.
“It'll continue for a while. Google is doing fine. Apple is doing fine. Let me tell you the loser here,” Schmidt told the WSJ. “There's a young [Android co-founder] Andy Rubin trying to form a new version of Danger [the smartphone company Mr. Rubin co-founded before Android]. How is he or she going to be able to get the patent coverage necessary to offer version one of their product? That's the real consequence of this.”
Another area Schmidt focused on was Siri, which many have suggested is an early attempt by Apple to redefine how search works on mobile devices. In fact, Schmidt says that Google does “worry about” competition in search that doesn't confirm to the traditional web model, but the company is also using that in its answer to FTC antitrust complaints, so it has a vested interest in identifying Siri as a potential competitor in this case. Doing so helps defray claims Google has a strong search monopoly, after all.
Schmidt's comments suggest that Apple and Google aren't at each other's throats, but you also get the distinct sense that there is little love lost between the two. The question remains, however, whether trade arrangements between the two giants continue to be about give and take, or whether there's a gradual breakdown of relations that could lead to one or the other eventually taking a much more isolationist approach.