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Google's Schmidt: Android 'started before the iPhone effort'

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt says Steve Jobs' claims that Android copied Apple's own efforts with the iPhone are just plain wrong.

Steve Jobs wasn't too fond of Android.
Steve Jobs wasn't too fond of Android.
James Martin/CNET

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has taken issue with Steve Jobs' claims that Android copied the iPhone.

"Our lawsuit is saying, 'Google you f***ing ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off," Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, about the lawsuits that Apple is engaged in with Android vendors Samsung, HTC, and others. "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product.

"I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this," Jobs added.

Speaking to reporters in South Korea today, Schmidt responded by saying that he didn't want to comment on the book, but would provide some general perspective on Jobs' claims, according to Reuters.

"I've decided not to comment on what's been written on a book after his death," Schmidt said, according to Reuters. "Steve is a fantastic human being and someone who I miss very dearly. As a general comment, I think most people would agree that Google is a great innovator and I would also point out that the Android effort started before the iPhone effort."

Schmidt does have a point. Android Inc. was founded by Andy Rubin in 2003. In 2005, Google acquired the company and hired Rubin to lead the development of the operating system.

The products' launches, however, don't necessarily play into Schmidt's favor. Apple launched its first iPhone in 2007. The first Android-based devices started hitting store shelves in 2008. That said, Apple and Google have a much different strategy when it comes to the mobile space: Apple prefers to sell the hardware and keep its software for itself, while Google makes Android available to handset vendors.

The drama between Apple and Google is only heightened when one considers the strong ties Schmidt had with Apple during the iPhone's development and launch phase. Schmidt was named to Apple's board in 2006, less than a year before the launch of the iPhone. In 2009, he resigned from the board due to increasing competition between his company and Apple.

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt.
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt. Greg Sandoval/CNET

Soon after, it was reported that Schmidt and Jobs were not as friendly as they had been when the then Google CEO joined Apple's board. But last month, Schmidt denied those claims, saying he and Jobs were, in fact, friendly.

"We understood it was a possibility when I joined the board," Schmidt said of the possible conflicts of interest with Apple. "We had adult conversations about it at the beginning and the end...all those reports in the press were wrong. After I left the board, they had me to events and to private dinners."

Aside from Jobs, Schmidt also discussed concerns that his company's $12.5 billion Motorola Mobility acquisition might negatively impact the Android ecosystem.

"In general, with all of our partners, we told them that the Motorola deal will close and we will run it sufficiently and independently, that it will not violate the openness of Android...we're not going to change in any material way the way we operate," Schmidt told reporters.