Google’s forthcoming computer operating system is the last straw: At some point, Google (GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt is going to have to step down from Apple’s (AAPL) board of directors.
When Schmidt joined Apple’s board in 2006, it symbolized two of Silicon Valley’s giants coming together as they waged war against a common enemy, Microsoft. But fast-forward three years and Apple and Google are overlapping a lot more.
Back in 2006, Apple was the iPod company whose Mac business was starting another growth binge, and Google was a high-flying search company trying to tap the enterprise market. Now, Google will soon be in direct competition with all three of Apple’s major businesses, and some of its minor businesses.
- Chrome OS will compete with Mac OS when it launches next year, and Chrome OS-powered devices will eventually compete with Macs.
- More immediately, Google’s Android operating system competes with Apple’s iPhone and iPhone OS, and a phone-less Dell Android device later this year will compete with the iPod.
- The companies also have rival mobile app platforms, which compete for developers’ time and investment.
- Chrome (the browser) competes with Apple’s Safari, even though they use the same “Webkit” guts.
- Don’t forget Apple’s iWork, which competes with Google Docs.
Whether or not Apple and Google are technically engaging in collusion, via overlapping boards or secret no-poaching agreements, perception is reality. The companies are becoming too competitive, and now Schmidt’s presence on Apple’s board is beginning to look silly. Is he going to get up and recuse himself every 15 minutes during board meetings?
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