IT looked like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Three years ago, Eric E Schmidt, the chief executive of Google, jogged onto a San Francisco stage to shake hands with Steven P Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, to help him unveil the iPhone at the annual MacWorld Expo.
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.”
Today, such warmth is in short supply. Jobs, Schmidt and their companies are now engaged in a gritty battle over the future and shape of mobile computing.
In the last six months, Apple and Google have jousted over acquisitions, patents, directors, advisers and iPhone applications. This month, Apple sued HTC, the Taiwanese maker of mobile phones that run Google’s Android operating system, for violating iPhone patents. The move was widely seen as the 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.
Google fears that Microsoft or Apple or wireless carriers like Verizon could block access to its services on devices like smartphones.
Google’s promotion of Android is, essentially, an effort to control its destiny in the mobile world.
At the heart of their dispute is a sense of betrayal: Jobs believes Google violated their alliance by producing cellphones that physically, technologically and spiritually resembled the iPhone.
“We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business,” Jobs told Apple employees shortly after the public introduction of the iPad, according to a Google insider. “Make no mistake: Google wants to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them.”
Apple declined to comment for this article. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founders, have openly expressed admiration for Jobs. In a statement, 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. But business is different.
The ads run by service provider Verizon for the Droid put the rivalry in perspective: “Everything iDon’t ... Droid Does.”