Google chairman Eric Schmidt is in London Thursday night for an on-stage interview with the Financial Times. During the conversation, one audience member asked how Schmidt dealt with conflicts of interest during the three years he spent on Apple’s board of directors.
Schmidt explained that during his conversations with Steve Jobs prior to joining the Apple board in 2006, the pair would often discuss Google’s Chrome web browser as well as its Android mobile operating system.
He said collaboration is vital in technology, going on to say that CEOs benefit from “making the pie bigger.”
But that spirit of collaboration could only go so far. Schmidt said Jobs and Apple didn’t really care about the Chrome web browser, but when it came to the iOS/Android device war, well, that was a different story. When Apple’s board started to discuss mobile phones and operating systems, Schmidt would realise where the conversation was heading, stand up, and leave the room.
There’s a mechanism in US law, he says, that means board members can exclude themselves from conversations where conflicts of interests might arise. So he left the room whenever iOS or Android was mentioned, and would re-enter when the topic of conversation changed. Eventually Schmidt found it too awkward to stay on the board as Apple and Google’s markets converged, so he left the board in August 2009.