With so many fanboys spinning Silicon Valley history, it's sometimes easy to forget about the real chain of events that led to the ongoing Apple-Google thermonuclear war, how the romance turned to hate. This timeline presents an interesting case about why, despite patents and prior art, Steve Jobs had plenty of personal reasons to despise Schmidt, Page, and Brin.
The simple answer is Google's leadership profoundly betrayed the longtime personal trust and friendship of Apple's leadership in stealing what Steve Jobs believed were Apple's most prized possessions. The fuller answer is below, in a telling timeline of the once exceptionally-close Apple-Google relationship.
This discussion is timely given Google's current PR effort to convince the public and the media that Google and Apple are likely to negotiate a patent "truce" and make Google's Android's patent liabilities go away. Thus it makes sense to drill down to learn more about the real likelihood of Apple being party to any patent-litigation "truce" or grand Apple-Android patent-licensing settlement.
Many are familiar with Apple's Steve Jobs' strong views about Google-Android's infringement of Apple. In Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs famously said "…I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this." However, few are familiar with the story of what actually made Steve Jobs this angry. Moreover, few are familiar with the length and closeness of the Apple-Google relationship that explains the depth of the betrayal Steve Jobs felt about Google's theft.
In 2001, when Google was a three-year-old start-up with roughly £30 million in revenues, Google's co-founders met Steve Jobs and wanted him to become Google's CEO. Already CEO of his own highly-consequential, 24 year-old tech company with £5 billion in revenues that had just developed the iconic iPod, Jobs demurred and generously took young Larry Page and Sergey Brin under his wing and mentored them.
Per Steven Levy's In the Plex, "Jobs was excited by the opportunity to hook up with a business whose activities were entirely complementary to Apple's — there seemed to be no competitive overlap." Jobs went so far as to encourage his personal life coach and best friend, Bill Campbell, to become an executive coach to Google's leadership to help them succeed. Concerning the closeness between Apple's and Google's leadership team, Steven Levy wrote: "There was so much overlap that it was almost as if Apple and Google were a single company."
In secrecy, Apple started development of the iPhone in 2004. In August 2005, Google quietly bought the Android start-up, when no one outside of Apple was supposed to know that Apple was working on the iPhone. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt joined Apple's Board in August 2006.
Apple launched the iPhone in January of 2007. Eleven months later, in November of 2007, Google showed a video that effectively juxtaposed Google-Android's original pre-iPhone "before" prototype which looked and operated more like a Blackberry button-driven phone, with Google-Android's post-iPhone-launch "after" prototype that heavily-resembled the look-and-feel of the iPhone and incorporated many of Apple's signature touch-screen inventions. In October 2008, T-Mobile released the G1, Google's first Android phone.
According to Steven Levy's book, Jobs "concluded that he was a victim of deceit." He felt "he had been betrayed by the two young men he had been attempting to mentor. He felt the trust between the two companies had been violated […] Not only did he believe that Google had performed a bait and switch on him, replacing a non-competing phone with one that was very much in the iPhone mode, but he also felt that Google had stolen Apple's intellectual property."
In January 2009, then Apple COO Tim Cook told investors: "We approach this business as a software platform business. We are watching the landscape. We like competition as long as they don't rip off our IP. And if they do, we will go after anyone who does."
In May of 2009, the FTC indicated that it viewed that Google and Apple sharing Board members was anti-competitive, but Eric Schmidt defiantly publicly represented that Google is not a "primary competitor" to Apple's iPhone. Under pressure from the FTC, Schmidt resigned from Apple's board in August 2009. In November 2009, Google outbid Apple to acquire mobile advertising leader AdMob. Then Google launched its first smart phone, the Nexus One, in January 2010, just seven months after Google's Schmidt publicly represented that Google did not compete with Apple's iPhone.
Apple launched the iPad later in January 2010. At a late January 2010 Apple town meeting, Steve Jobs reportedly said: "We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won't let them. This "don't be evil" mantra is bullshit."
In March 2010, Apple sues Google-Android partner HTC for patent infringement of the iPhone. At that time, Steve Jobs explained: "We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We've decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."
In October 2010, Apple filed two patent lawsuits against Motorola over six multi-touch OS patents that make up much of the signature touch-screen inventions of the iPhone. In April 2011, Apple sued Google Android partner Samsung for patent infringement of the iPhone and iPad.
In early August 2011, Google's Chief Legal Officer blogged that: "Android's success has yielded… a hostile campaign by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies waged through bogus patents." Later in August 2011, Google buys Motorola and its 17,000 patent portfolio to vigorously "defend Android."
In August 2012, Apple wins a $1.05b patent infringement suit against Samsung for copying many distinguishing features of the iPhone and iPad. Google responds by encouraging the media to expect a patent truce which it knows is not likely.
Google's Chairman Eric Schmidt made a potentially incriminating admission at Motorola's new phone launch in publicly admitting that "we were late to tablets" and that only 70,000 of Google's 1.3 million daily Android activations are tablets. That's potentially incriminating because during 2008-2009, when Mr. Schmidt was still on Apple's board, Steve Jobs made sure to keep Eric Schmidt in the dark about development of the iPad. Isn't it interesting that when Mr. Schmidt was on Apple's board and aware of the iPhone, Google was not "late" to the smart phone market (Google-Android now has dominant market share), but when Google's Schmidt was out of the loop as a board director on the existence of the iPad, Google is somehow "late" to the tablet market?
The big overall takeaway here is that if Google's leadership is willing and comfortable stealing from longtime personal friends and colleagues who have given generously to them and greatly helped them succeed at most every stage, Google could be expected to have no compunction stealing from people they don't know. This also helps explain why Google has by far the worst intellectual property infringement record of any major American corporation and why so many companies and people are suing Google around the world for intellectual property infringement.
Scott Cleland is President of Precursor LLC, a research consultancy serving Fortune 500 clients, some of which are Google competitors. He is also publisher of GoogleMonitor.com and Googleopoly.net, and author of the book: "Search & Destroy: Why You Can't Trust Google Inc.
He has testified before Congress three times on Google.