Behind Google and Apple’s growing and heated rivalry

Mon, Mar 15, 2010


Apple and Google have been on the outs for a few months now, and with Apple taking a jab at Google’s Android OS via their lawsuit against HTC, it doesn’t seem like the 2 tech heavyweights will be best buds again anytime soon.

In a fascinating article from this past weekend, the New York Time chronicles the slow demise of a once strong Silicon Valley relationship between two of the most iconic companies in Tech today. At the root of the split, not surprisingly, is Google’s foray into the smartphone market, a move that Jobs reportedly views as a betrayal. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that Apple held an informal company townhall meeting to discuss the iPad that Jobs reportedly called Google’s “Don’t be Evil” mantra bullshit, in addition to stating, “We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business.”

And if you know anything about Steve Jobs, he’s not the type to draw a bright line between business and personal relationships. For him, it’s one and the same, and that helps explain the sheer vitriol that seems to characterize Apple and Google’s growing rivalry.

One well-connected Silicon Valley investor, who did not want to be identified talking about the Google-Apple feud, says he is stunned by the level of rancor he’s witnessed.

“It’s World War III. Amazing animosity is motivating two of the most powerful people in the industry,” he says. “This is emotional. This is the biggest ego battle in history. It’s incendiary.”

What’s interesting is that it wasn’t all that long ago that Google and Apple were the best of friends, joining forces to take on what at the time seemed like an insurmountable foe – Microsoft.

Although Mr. Jobs and Mr. Schmidt both began working in Silicon Valley in the late 1970s, their paths rarely crossed. But by 2001, with Mr. Jobs back at Apple and Mr. Schmidt running Google, they shared a singular mission: limiting Microsoft’s hegemony to the personal computer and ensuring that Bill Gates didn’t dominate the frontier of online services and mobile devices…

Behind the scenes, closer bonds between the two companies had formed. Google’s co-founders, Mr. Page and Mr. Brin, considered Mr. Jobs a mentor and, according to a former Apple executive, were regular visitors to Mr. Jobs’s office in Cupertino, Calif., during Google’s early days.

Mr. Brin was also known to take long walks with Mr. Jobs near his house in Palo Alto, and in the nearby foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. According to colleagues, they discussed the future of technology and planned some joint ventures that never came to fruition — like a collaborative effort to develop a version of Apple’s Safari browser for Windows.

But on to the good stuff. The Times reports that when Apple approached Google about their concerns with Android, Jobs flat out accused Google of “stealing iPhone features.” Google, not one to back down, fired back claiming that they have Android prototypes that predate the iPhone, and that Android’s features were essentially the amalgamation of features that were fast becoming industry standards, regardless of Apple’s efforts.

In one meeting in particular, the Times writes that Jobs flat out told Google executives that if they release a version of Android with multitouch support, that Apple would sue them. “Two people briefed on the meeting,” the Times writes, “described it as “fierce” and ‘heated.'” And if you remember, the first Android smartphone, the G1, was technically capable of supporting multitouch but didn’t come with that functionality built in. Since then, a slew of smartphones have emerged that support multitouch, such as the Palm Pre, the Droid, and most recently, the Nexus One phone from Google.

While Google listened to Apple, it rarely backed down. “I don’t think they made many accommodations,” says a former Google executive who was briefed on the discussions. “Google is not a company that is particularly afraid of anyone, including Apple.”

INSIDE both Apple and Google, employees say, the sense of rivalry is intense and a peacemaker is sorely needed. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my life,” one Apple employee says. “I’m in so many meetings where so many potshots are taken. It feels weird.”

At Google, which counts Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo on an ever-expanding list of rivals, the enmity toward Apple is not quite as widespread. After all, the iPhone has helped to fuel the popularity of Google mobile services and ads.

There’s a whole lot more in the full article and it’s definitely recommended reading. Again, you can check it out over here.

When Mr. Schmidt was invited to join Apple’s board in 2006, he and Mr. Jobs lavished praise on each other.


, , , , ,

1 Comments For This Post

  1. CapnVan Says:

    Interesting. One thought that immediately pops to mind, almost out of nowhere: I’m wondering if Google is one the of reasons for the Apple (war)chest.

    Google has sufficient cash flow from their main business, advertising, to heavily subsidize their ancillary projects like Chrome, Docs, and now, Android. Conversely, Apple has made it fairly clear (to me, at least) that they see their future in iPhone/iPad OS (much more so than Mac OS – they’ve definitely made pointed statements about the fact that the i-OS has shipped an order of magnitude more units than Mac OS recently) [That’s not to say that they’re killing the Mac, but they may not see it as a growth leader for the future, as many of us might like.]

    I’m wondering if Apple is anticipating an eventual price war… It’s not exactly the way that the mobile phone market currently works, but…

    Just thinkin’

eXTReMe Tracker