According to a hearsay report in Wired, Apple CEO Steve Jobs allegedly said the following at an internal town hall meeting for Apple employees coinciding with the launch of the iPad:
We did not enter the search business, Jobs said. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them, he says. Someone else asks something on a different topic, but there’s no getting Jobs off this rant. I want to go back to that other question first and say one more thing, he says. This don’t be evil mantra: “It’s bullshit.” Audience roars.
This is being widely picked up and discussed on Techmeme.
For those interested in the Apple vs. Google story that has largely replaced Google vs. Microsoft as the dominant tech narrative, this report deliciously confirms the intensifying nature of their competition.
Jobs also criticizes Adobe and Flash for being “buggy,” according to the article, and apparently argues that HTML5 will replace flash. That’s somewhat ironic because Google hopes that HTML5 will help make apps obsolete. The recent Google Voice “web app” for the iPhone, which bypassed the iPhone app store and its much lamented approval process, was written in HTML5.
If the Wired story is accurate, in retrospect, it seems very likely (as some writers then speculated) that Jobs asked Google CEO Eric Schmidt to step down from the Apple board. Of course there was also an anti-trust investigation going on surrounding Apple and Google’s two common board members. But note the tone of the Apple press release at the time, which takes on a new “hue” in light of the Wired article above:
“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.”
Publicly Google’s Schmidt has said that Google’s relationship with Apple is “stable.” And Apple COO Tim Cook said on the company’s most recent earnings call, without any hint of animosity, that Google and Apple partner in some areas and compete in others.
But the tone of the quote above suggests considerable anger on the part of Steve Jobs: “Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone.” As perhaps the chief beneficiary of the iPhone after Apple itself, this remark (if true) misstates Google’s position. The company has no interest in “killing the iPhone.” However it is true that Google is trying to compete with and even best the iPhone with moves like the Nexus One.
I have said that I think it’s unlikely that Google would be replaced by Bing as the search default on the iPhone. Instead I believe Bing will be added at some point as a search option or alternative the way that Yahoo is today. But the anger contained in the remarks attributed to Jobs suggests that the discussions with Microsoft are probably real on some level.
Postscript: At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Eric Schmidt was asked what he thought of the Apple iPad. He reportedly said, “You might want to tell me the difference between a large phone and a tablet.” This remark is not only inaccurate as a description of the device it’s also snarkily (if I can use the word in that way) uncharacteristic of the typically restrained Schmidt. However some saw this comment as an observation about category blurring rather than a snipe.
In an earlier time (say during Schmidt’s tenure as an Apple board member) he might have responded more along these lines: “This is an intriguing new device that we think has a lot of potential for media viewing, reading and so on — including some of our properties such as Google Books, Fast Flip, Picasa and YouTube.”