Eric Schmidt may be a bit eccentric, but he's also one of the smartest men in Silicon Valley and any time he takes the stage or sits down for an interview, it's well worth paying attention to.
Recently, the former Google CEO sat down the Wall Street Journal to discuss the potential for an anti-trust suit against Google and the seemingly on-going battle between Apple and the Mountain View search giant.
First, Schmidt notes that he still sees Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook as the four companies that remain the most relevant in consumer technology today. I don't disagree but feel it's worth pointing out the significance of Microsoft's absence from the list. Ten years ago Facebook didn't even exist and a similar list without Microsoft appearing front and center would have been absurd. But as has been documented and detailed a thousand times over, Microsoft hasn't proven exceptionally adept at adapting to an ever-changing consumer marketplace.
In any event, things get interesting when Schmidt is asked about Google's relationship with Apple.
It's always been on and off. Obviously, we would have preferred them to use our maps. They threw YouTube off the home screen [of iPhones and iPads]. I'm not quite sure why they did that.
The press would like to write the sort of teenage model of competition, which is, 'I have a gun, you have a gun, who shoots first?'
The adult way to run a business is to run it more like a country. They have disputes, yet they've actually been able to have huge trade with each other. They're not sending bombs at each other.
I think both Tim [Cook, Apple's CEO] and Larry [Page, Google's CEO], the sort of successors to Steve [Jobs] and me if you will, have an understanding of this state model. When they and their teams meet, they have just a long list of things to talk about.
Interestingly, when asked about Apple's lawsuits with a number of Google's partners - Samsung being the biggest one - Schmidt himself acknowledges that it's somewhat odd that Apple would go after Google's partners and not Google itself. There are reasons behind that, but what's really worth pointing out is what Schmidt has to say about whose really losing out with all of this patent litigation regarding smartphone patents. After all, Apple remains exceedingly successful as does Google. So who's the real loser?
"Let me tell you the loser here," Schmidt begins.
"There's a young [Android co-founder] Andy Rubin trying to form a new version of Danger [the smartphone company Mr. Rubin co-founded before Android]. How is he or she going to be able to get the patent coverage necessary to offer version one of their product? That's the real consequence of this."
Also of note is Google's acquisition of Motorola, which puts them in an awkward position whereby they have to compete with some of their hardware partners. On this note, Schmidt revealed that upon acquiring Motorola, he personally flew to Samsung and told them that the Android "ecoystem has to be favored at all costs" and that any favoritism would result in the entire ecosystem unravelling.
The entire interview with Schmidt is rather illuminating and is well worth a read.