The resignation of Google CEO Eric Schmidt from Apple's board of directors merely confirms what has been clear for some time---the two companies will increasingly compete in the mobile market.
It's Android vs. the iPhone and the games are just about to begin.
In a statement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said:
Unfortunately, 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.
That's true, but let's face it---the Chrome OS isn't the competition Apple is worried about. It's Android and an army of phones powered by Google that would put Schmidt in recusal limbo every Apple board meeting.
The true irony of all of this is that much of the iPhone's value has been its tight integration with Google. That integration may not be as tight going forward.
Google had native access to the iPhone at first. YouTube, search, Google Maps and Google Earth are so tightly integrated that the two companies are merged on the iPhone. That state of affairs began to change with Google Latitude.
Let's check off some of the recent mileposts:
- Google Latitude has to go browser only on the iPhone because Apple thought it would be best for users. Google also noted that the native vs. browser app is a case by case decision with Apple and Google. And then you got this ding from Google:
Unfortunately, since there is no mechanism for applications to run in the background on iPhone (which applies to browser-based web apps as well), we’re not able to provide continuous background location updates in the same way that we can for Latitude users on Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Window Mobile…
- Apple last week pulled Google Voice-based apps from the App Store. Why? Folks may get confused between the Google-powered voice features and the iPhone's features.
- And now we have the Federal Communications Commission poking around on how Apple decided to remove Google Voice related apps from its store. Did AT&T know? How did Apple decide? In this scrum it's likely that Google, which is already on friendly terms with the FCC, will come out looking pretty good.
Now Google will increasingly get to the iPhone via the browser and that interaction just isn't the same.
Now Google and Apple still need each other. Do you really think Apple will default to Bing for search? However, things have clearly changed. For instance, Google could get chummy with Research in Motion, which allows it to use Google Voice native. The iPhone base is huge, but RIM ain't chump change.
Bottom line: Google doesn't have to give Apple any better treatment than any other vendor. And it's likely that Apple may get worse treatment (by it's own choosing).
So what does this road forward look like?
Google's best features, apps and competitive edge will reside on Android-powered phones. Do you honestly think the best Google Earth and Google Maps experience will be found on other phones? Motorola could gain a lot here.
Apple will have to rely on its developers to get the job done. And that's why Apple will have to choose carefully when it comes to pulling apps like GV Voice on the fly.
As for the rest of the gang---RIM, Nokia, Palm---Google is likely to be welcomed. You're likely to get tighter Google applications on these other platforms. After all, everyone is trying to bring down the iPhone. But the good stuff---the really whiz-bang Google creations---are likely to have the most pop on Android. Can Google out-Apple Apple?
Also see: Matthew Miller's smartphone blog