Google's Schmidt resigns from Apple board

The Google CEO, who has been on Apple's board of directors since 2006, is stepping down because of a growing number of conflicts of interest.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

In a move that comes as little surprise, Apple announced Monday that Google CEO Eric Schmidt is resigning from its board of directors.

"Eric has been an excellent Board member for Apple, investing his valuable time, talent, passion and wisdom to help make Apple successful," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in the release. "Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple's core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric's effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple's Board."

Google CEO Eric Schmidt Elinor Mills/CNET News

Schmidt had been on Apple's board for almost exactly three years, since August 2006.

In May, Google confirmed that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was planning to hold discussions concerning potential conflicts of interest related to Schmidt's presence on both companies' boards of directors. Google's chief legal officer, David Drummond, said at the time that Google did not believe there was a problem with the situation.

Schmidt has said repeatedly that he recused himself from Apple board discussions pertaining to areas in which the companies' interests overlap--the iPhone, for example, given Google's work on the Android operating system for smartphones. But the similarities grew more difficult to reconcile when Google announced the development of its Chrome operating system, which will compete directly with Apple's OS. (The companies already own competing Web browsers, Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome.)

Last month, Schmidt said that he was planning to discuss the future of his role on Apple's board given the advent of Chrome OS.

More recently, potential competitive turf became evident when Google's third-party applications for the iPhone--which comes preinstalled with Google Maps--started to get well-publicized scrutiny from Apple. Google's location-aware service Latitude, for example, has been restricted to a Web-based app rather than an installable one, and a Google Voice telephony app was outright rejected by Apple.

Last week, a report surfaced that the Federal Communications Commission had sent letters of inquiry to Apple, Google, and iPhone carrier AT&T concerning the blocked app.

The Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, is also looking into the relationship between Apple and Google. On Monday, the FTC said it would continue that inquiry even with Schmidt's departure from Apple's board.

"We have been investigating the Google/Apple interlocking directorates issue for some time and commend them for recognizing that sharing directors raises competitive issues, as Google and Apple increasingly compete with each other," Richard Feinstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, said in a statement. "We will continue to investigate remaining interlocking directorates between the companies."

Last updated Tuesday at 4:38 a.m. PDT with FTC statement.