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Schmidt: Our biggest competitor is...Bing

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Google "recently extended" its search deal with Apple, according to a new interview with Mountain View boss Eric Schmidt.

Speaking with US TV personality Charlie Rose in the pages of BusinessWeek, Schmidt mentioned the extended deal in passing. "Apple (AAPL) is a company we both partner and compete with, " he said. "We do a search deal with them, recently extended, and we're doing all sorts of things in maps and things like that. So the sum of all this is that two large corporations, both of which are important, both of which I care a lot about, will [remain] pretty close."

Like Google co-founder Larry Page before him, Schmidt also claimed that Android predated the Apple iPhone. "Android was around earlier than iPhone," he said.

Apple unveiled the first iPhone in January 2007, and it reached stores that summer. Google announced its Android mobile operating system the following November, and the first Android handset debuted from US carrier T-Mobile almost a year later, in September 2008. But in 2005, Google purchased mobile startup Android Inc., whose work played a role in the company's mobile OS.

In a separate interview with the Wall Street Journal, Schmidt claims that Apple is not Google's competitor. It's not Facebook either, he says. The company's biggest competitor, he claims, is Microsoft Bing. "We consider neither to be a competitive threat," he says of Apple and Facebook. "Our competitor is Bing.

"For years, everyone would ask about Microsoft. But now everyone has forgotten about Bing."

Asked if he was seriously claiming that Bing is a bigger long-term threat to Google than Facebook or Apple, Schmidt said that with Facebook, "it's too early to tell," and he pointed out that Apple is a Google partner. But he repeatedly referred to Apple as a "closed" company while insisting that Google is "open."

"Apple is the extreme expression of a closed system and they're doing a very good job of it," he said.

He would not discuss Google's specific plans to expand its social-networking efforts. But he acknowledged that it wants Facebook-like access to who your friends are. "Everything that Google does can become better if we have more information about who your friends are and what they're doing," he said. He indicated that Google may be able to glean such information via Zynga, the Facebook-friendly gaming outfit in which Google has invested. ®

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