Eric Schmidt: Android-Apple Is the Defining Fight in the Industry Today
The fight between Google and Apple over mobile devices is great for consumers, but the patent wars that have resulted are awful, said Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, in conversation tonight with our own Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.
“The Android-Apple platform fight is the defining fight in the industry today,” he said.
“We’ve not seen platform fights at this scale,” he said. “The beneficiary is you guys (i.e., consumers). Prices are dropping rapidly. That’s a wonderful value proposition.”
As for patent battles, Schmidt said he couldn’t talk about them, for two reasons. First, he said, he doesn’t understand all the details; and second, the topic makes him too upset.
“These patent wars are death,” Schmidt said, noting that software is always overlapping, and that there are an estimated 200,000 patents covering the software industry.
Schmidt said the impact is worse for small companies than it is for companies like Apple, Google and Samsung that can afford to protect their technolopgies.
“I think this is ultimately bad, bad for innovation. It eliminates choices.”
As for the latest skirmish between Google and Apple — Apple’s default map application on iOS used to use Google data, until the latest version — Schmidt said he thought Apple made a mistake.
“Apple should have kept with our maps,” he said. “The fact of the matter is they decided a long time ago to do their own maps, and we saw this coming with their acquisitions. I think Apple has learned that maps are hard. We invested hundred of millions of dollars in satellite work, airplane work, drive-by work, and we think we have the best product in the industry.”
So will Google make a new maps app for Apple devices? Schmidt gave the same non-answer he has given before.
“I don’t want to preannounce products, but I can tell you that were we to do that, Apple would have to approve it,” he said.
Schmidt said he still believes there to be a “Gang of Four” technology platform leaders — Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook — as he first proposed in an interview with Walt and Kara a couple of years ago.
Besides Apple and Google, he said, “Facebook is attempting to become the world’s communications hub, and Amazon is attempting to become the world’s largest store.”
Shouldn’t Microsoft be included in there, Mossberg asked? No, Schmidt said. “It’s a well-run company,” he said, “but they don’t make state-of-the-art products.”