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Schmidt's Timing on Apple Board Resignation Reveals Much

Given the waves of silence that emanated from Apple after all the reasonable criticism of Google's Eric Schmidt serving on its board, you would have been forgiven for thinking that, as is all too frequent with both of these companies, that they decided to follow the Frank Sinatra playbook and do it their way. But suddenly Apple issues a release announcing Schmidt's resignation. Unfortunately, given the timing, it only makes both companies look worse, not better.
"Eric has been an excellent Board member for Apple, investing his valuable time, talent, passion and wisdom to help make Apple successful," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "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. Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple's Board."
As Google enters more of Apple's core businesses? How about after Google had entered core businesses a year or two ago by coming out with a cell phone OS, a browser, cloud computing, application development frameworks and tools, and office productivity applications? How about, "We decided to see how long we could get away with it?"

It seems likely that the Apple rejection of Google Voice must have precipitated this, but not in a straight tit-for-tat manner. It would have been interesting to hear the likely phone call from Schmidt to Steve Jobs about the slight. But even more interesting would have been the discussion about the FCC investigation into the incident and relationships. As I've said before, Google, and even Apple, have the adolescent air of wanting to push things as far as possible, convinced as teenagers are of their own invulnerability.

Maybe Google isn't happy unless it's receiving plenty of attention from federal regulators. Maybe Apple likes to thumb its nose at convention. But from a perspective of governance and just smart competitive business, this is one of the most stupid arrangements you might imagine, and its persistence pushes the entire situation into the realm of asinine arrogance. That's my way of saying that I don't actually think that either Schmidt or [Arthur Levinson, another board member both companies had in common] will resign until there is so much pressure that there is no other choice, just as Google would not call off a deal with Yahoo until literally a few hours before the Department of Justice was going to file a suit, or stop scanning books from libraries until having to settle a class action suit by publishers and writers.
That's exactly what happened: more attention from another regulator. Apparently, some things never change.

Other BNET Coverage

Apple-Google Rift Growing [Michael Hickins, Technology]

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