Friends turn foes as future wars turn personal

When mutual admiration becomes virtual attrition for market pie

Friends turn foes as future wars turn personal

Google and Apple had worked together to bring Google’s search and mapping services to the iPhone, the executives told the audience, and Schmidt joked that the collaboration was so close that the two men should simply merge their companies and call them “AppleGoo.”

“Steve, my congratulations to you,” Schmidt told his corporate ally. “This product is going to be hot.” Jobs acknowledged the compliment with an ear-to-ear smile.
Today, such warmth is in short supply. Jobs, Schmidt and their companies are now engaged in a gritty battle royale over the future and shape of mobile computing and cellphones, with implications that are reverberating across digital landscape.  In the last six months, Apple and Google have jousted over acquisitions, patents, directors, advisers and iPhone applications. Jobs and Schmidt have taken shots at each other’s companies in the media and in private exchanges with employees.
This month, Apple sued HTC, Taiwanese maker of mobile phones that run Google’s Android operating system, contending that HTC had violated iPhone patents. The move was widely seen as beginning of a legal assault by Apple on Google itself, as well as an attempt to slow Google’s plans to extend its dominion to mobile devices.

Apple believes that devices like smartphones and tablets should have tightly controlled, proprietary standards and that customers should take advantage of services on those gadgets with applications downloaded from Apple’s own App Store.  Google, on the other hand, wants smartphones to have open, nonproprietary platforms so users can freely roam the Web for apps that work on many devices. Google has long feared that rivals like Microsoft or Apple or wireless carriers like Verizon could block access to its services on devices like smartphones, which could soon eclipse computers as the primary gateway to the Web. Google’s promotion of Android is, essentially, an effort to control its destiny in the mobile world.
While the discord between Apple and Google is in part philosophical and involves enormous financial stakes, the battle also has deeply personal overtones and echoes the ego-fueled fisticuffs that have long characterised technology industry feuds. (Think Intel vs A.M.D., Microsoft vs everybody, and so on.)
The clash between Schmidt and Jobs, say industry watchers, offers an unusually vivid display of enmity and ambition.

At the heart of their dispute is a sense of betrayal: Jobs believes Google violated the alliance between the companies by producing cellphones that physically, technologically and spiritually resembled the iPhone. In short, he feels that his former friends at Google picked his pocket.

“We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business,” Jobs told staff after introduction of iPad in January, adding “Make no mistake: Google wants to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them.”  Google says it isn’t at war with its former ally. “Apple is a valued partner, and we have great respect for everything they have done for technology for more than 30 years,” says Jill Hazelbaker, Google spokeswoman.

Schmidt concurred. “I continue to believe, as many do, that Steve Jobs is the best CEO in the world today, and I admire Apple and Steve enormously,” he wrote. Despite such sentiments, the tech world at large is watching the battle between Apple and Google with shock and awe. “It’s World War III. Amazing animosity is motivating two of the most powerful people in the industry,” says a watcher. “This is emotional. This is the biggest ego battle in history. It’s incendiary.”  
The New York Times

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