"Apple has learned that maps are hard," Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt calmly stated, without smirking, during an interview with All Things D hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the 92nd Street Y in New York Wednesday evening. He added that Google had spent over five years investing in its map app, while Apple has been in catch-up mode. "Apple should have kept our maps," Schmidt said. "They're better maps."
He added, "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."
Schmidt said that Google knew that Apple was prepping its own maps, after seeing its rival buying companies to help it build its map application. When asked about the release of a Google map app for iOS 6, he said he would not pre-announce any product, adding that Apple would have to approve the app. "They haven't approved all of Google's offerings over the years," he said.
However, he suggested that the two companies are not going silent on each other. "Apple and Google are two large and important institutions. We are always in negotiation, which makes for a structurally stable outcome," he said. That said, Schmidt was proud to say that Google's Android is being activated on 1.3 million smartphones per day, far more than Apple.
Schmidt outlined his view of the relevant players vying to colonize the digital planet, what he called the "network platforms with enormous scale global effects." Those network platforms include Facebook (the communications giant) and Amazon (the shopping giant), in addition to Google (trying to be an everything giant) and Apple (the revenue, profit, and everything giant). Microsoft has not made Schmidt's cut, but Windows 8 may change that evaluation. "We will see how Windows 8 plays out. It is a well funded, smart, well run company," he said.
At the end of the interview, Schmidt was asked, theoretically, whether he would want to be the CEO of Facebook, Apple, or Amazon. "I was on Apple's board, and I'll always have a soft spot for them," he said. "I was very good friends and very close to Steve Jobs, and I'll miss him dearly. Jeff Bezos has made some remarkable moves. And, Facebook has a billion users." When asked to choose, he said, "Which one has the most cash?"