Apple severs board ties with Google, buys mapping serivice, readies for a fight

With an FTC investigation pending, another round of ties are severed between the two companies

The final ties have been cut between Apple's and Google's board (and it's about time they have been). Arthur Levinson had been serving as an independent member on both the Apple and Google board of directors but has resigned his position from Google's board.

No one is shocked that Levinson left, but it sure took a while. Google's CEO Eric Schmidt resigned (or was shown the door?) in August, shortly after Google announced it would be competing head on with Apple in the operating system market with Chrome OS just as it was competing with the iPhone with Android.

Levinson is chairman of the giant Silicon Vally biotech company Genentech Inc. and had been a Google board member since April 2004. He has been on the Apple board since 2000.

The Federal Trade Commission has been looking into the ties between Google and Apple, for possible antitrust implications. Not only is not legal for competitors to help run each other's companies, but the two were rumored to have a "no poaching" pact, where they agreed not to hire away each other's employees. Yahoo was also allegedly a member of that pact.

In the meantime, Apple, Google and Apple's iPhone partner AT&T are at each other's throats over Google Voice. And Apple is giving off some indication that it could be the one ready to compete with some of Google services, too. In July, Apple reportedly secretly bought mapping service Placebase. (An acquisition is usually not something a company can do and not disclose to the SEC and its shareholders and yet Apple's 8-K mentions figures associated with acquisitions, but doesn't so much as mention the Placebase name.). Placebase is an alternative to Google Maps and offers similar functions such as zoom and overlaying maps onto data.

I'll bet, in the months to come, we'll see even more encroachment by Apple into Google territory. For instance, Apple's exclusive contract with AT&T for the iPhone will be coming due in 2010 and there are indications that Apple will grant the iPhone to multiple carriers. Should Apple grant iPhone contracts to every carrier offering Android phones (and with the rumor that Dell was planning an Android phone with AT&T) that's about all of them. Direct head-to-head competition with the iPhone and its nearly 2 billion applications, could severely hurt the young Android market.

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