Google CEO Larry Page is either experiencing amnesia or consciously rewriting the history of Apple(s AAPL) and Google(s GOOG) in the battle for mobile developers and consumers.
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek Wednesday, Page says that with Apple the “Android differences were actually for show” and that Steve Jobs and company created the feud between the two companies for their own benefit. Page said:
I think that served their interests. For a lot of companies, it’s useful for them to feel like they have an obvious competitor and to rally around that. I personally believe that it’s better to shoot higher. You don’t want to be looking at your competitors. You want to be looking at what’s possible and how to make the world better.
History shows that Google is not at all above exploiting the perceived battle between Apple and itself over iOS and Android for its own gain. The most obvious example is VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra’s speech at Google I/O in May 2010. At the time, Android was not yet the hit it is today, and Apple’s iPhone, iPad and mobile OS were runaway successes. Here’s what Gundotra said to the gathering of developers that day about why Google made Android:
If we did not act, we faced a draconian future. Where one man, one company, one carrier was the future.
That was Google using the idea of a philosophical battle over the future of mobile technology with Apple and Jobs — and AT&T(s T), which at the time had a monopoly on the iPhone in the U.S. — to motivate developers. When Eric Schmidt was Google’s CEO, he answered numerous questions about Android’s approach by emphasizing the “open” nature of Android as opposed to the “closed” approach favored by Apple: clearly presenting Android as “not Apple.” This all served Google’s interests pretty well: Android now runs on more than half of smartphones.
Jobs was certainly not above the same tactics. In early 2010, Jobs spoke about Google and Android to Apple employees, reportedly saying:
“We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business,” Mr. Jobs told Apple employees during an all-hands meeting shortly after the public introduction of the iPad in January, according to two employees who were there and heard the presentation. “Make no mistake: Google wants to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them.”
So, yes, Page is correct that Apple did use the feud to fire up its own troops and to rally its own developers — but it’s disingenuous to say Apple is the only one that got mileage out of it.