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Google and Apple locked horns over iPhone location data

The roots of Jobsian divorce

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In 2008, as Apple fought Google's efforts to collect user-location data from iPhones via its Google Maps service, the battle between two of the companies' top execs escalated to the point where CEOs Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt personally intervened to resolve the argument, according reports citing unnamed sources.

In a profile of six power-wielding Google execs serving under once and future CEO Larry Page, Bloomberg Businessweek digs up a "heated" sparring match between Google vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra and Apple vice president of marketing Phil Schiller over the role of Google Maps on the iPhone. And according to 9to5Mac, which cites its own inside source, this is the root of the ongoing spat beween the two companies.

In August 2009, Eric Schmidt left the Apple board of directors. In February 2010, Steve Jobs called Google's "don't be evil" motto "bullshit" during an Apple town hall meeting. And later in 2010, Apple unveiled its own location-tracking service for the iPhone. The Jesus Phone, however, continues to use various Google services.

Previously, it seemed that the rift between Google and Apple was merely about Mountain View's decision to roll out its own mobile operating system, Android. At that town hall meeting, according to Apple employees speaking to the press, Jobs openly criticized Google for entering the phone market. "We did not enter the search business," Jobs said. "[Google] entered the phone business. Make no mistake: they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them." And he made similar noises during a public appearance last summer.

Asked if Eric Schmidt had told him about Android prior to its unveiling, Jobs said: "No. ...They started competing with us and it got more and more serious." Asked if he felt betrayed, he said: "My sex life is pretty good these days".

Eric Schmidt likes to portray Google as an "open" company that operates in contrast to a "closed" company like Apple. "With the Apple model – which works extremely well, as I know as a former Apple board member – you have to use their development tools, their platform, their software, their hardware," Schmidt said at a conference this fall. "If you submit an application, they have to approve it. You have to use their monetization and their distribution. That would not be open. The inverse would be open."

But Gundotra is the one senior Googler who has been pointedly critical of Steve Jobs and Apple – at least in public. Last May, at Google's annual developer conference, Gundotra told the world that Mountain View had developed Android in an effort to avoid "a Draconian future, a future where one man, one company, one device, and one carrier would be our only choice." And as he unloaded this message, an image appeared behind him that read "Not a Future We Want. 1984," turning the tables on the famous Apple TV ad that announced the original Macintosh.

9to5Mac says that another major turning point in the relationship was the release of the inaugural Android phone, which “looked nothing like the prototypes that Steve Jobs and [senior vice president of iOS Software at Apple] Scott Forstall were shown by Google’s leadership”. But this doesn't seem kosher to us – if only because the inaugural Android phone was a piece of junk. ®

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