Friday, January 08, 2010
Apple, Google, and Nexus One: The Role of Eric Schmidt
If you stopped reading fake steve jobs when he went on hiatus as Dan Lyons for a while, it's time to go back. Perhaps "Operation Chokehold" was not as successful as fsj had hoped, but it did point up AT&T's weaknesses with its network. There was even some interesting discussion of shareholders vs. customers -- perhaps fodder for Vic Fleischer's consumer primacy.
Now fsj is all over the Nexus One, Google's attempt to eat into the cell phone (and the iPhone) market. You may remember the fanfare when Eric Schmidt, Google's Chairman/CEO, joined the Apple board. He even worked for free! Well, he's no longer on the board -- he resigned in August. At the time, the real Steve Jobs said in a press release: "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."
At the time of the resignation, there was some speculation that "[t]he two companies may genuinely dislike each other now." I would say that's a yes. FSJ has a great (hypothetical) conversation between Jobs and Schmidt in the aftermath of N-O:
I’m like, Dude, do you not remember all that stuff you told me about not making a phone, back when you were still not recusing yourself from iPhone discussions during board meetings? You swore, and I mean you looked me in the eye and swore, that you would never make a phone. He says, We’re not making a phone. HTC is making it.
I told him if he wanted to use that line on the retards in the hackery that’s one thing but please don’t insult me with it. He goes, Okay, it’s our phone.
So I guess my underlying legal question is: any possibility that Apple has claims against Schmidt? I would assume not, since this stuff had to have been lawyered up so extensively on both sides that there's no room for illegality. Still, it does seem fairly -- um, unusual -- that two competitors would have been working together so closely. Or does this just mean that boards are a lot less important than corporate law makes them out to be?
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There is a lot of speculation that the reason the Nexus One (and a lot of other Android phones) doesn't support multi-touch out of the box is because of a gentlemen's agreenment between Google and Apple. Essentially, that Apple said, fine you're making a phone, but multi-touch is our thing.
Posted by: Ben | Jan 8, 2010 11:51:41 AM
A follow-up question: do you think this is merely a "handshake" agreement or a legally-enforceable one?
Posted by: Matt Bodie | Jan 8, 2010 12:57:00 PM
I'm fairly certain that the Android OS supports multi-touch out of the box, but they choose not to use it on the stock applications (likely for the reason you cited). However, apps can (and do) use the technology on Android phones.
Posted by: Kyle | Jan 8, 2010 11:54:17 PM
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