August 29, 2006

Google CEO Joins Apple Board - So What?

The somewhat-stunning after-hours news today was that Google CEO Eric Schmidt has joined Apple's board of directors, joining former Vice President and would-be world supreme leader Al Gore, and the CEOs of Intuit, J. Crew and Genentech. Fresh off of the news that Google was introducing new applications that could be co-branded for business' domain, the expectation is that Apple and Google have teamed up in a joint fight against the Redmond behemoth, Microsoft. But what's not seen is that the usual direct impact a board member has on the company's products is very slim indeed.

One need only look as far as Apple to see this. When Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, a close friend of Steve Jobs, was on the board, the Macintosh did not make much headway in running Oracle's business suite, and Intuit hasn't exactly wowed anybody with their support for Macintosh in the last decade or so. While we can dream of further collaboration between the two companies, beyond a Google search bar embedded in Safari, and $1.75 iPod wrappers with the Google logo, this doesn't guarantee a streamlined plethora of joint product announcements - so don't hold your breath for a Mac OS X version of Google Desktop, Google-branded Mac Minis and X Serves, or the debut of GTunes, powered by iTunes.

At least... that's my expectation. A board of directors' role is to ensure the company is growing smoothly and that all activities are above board, from compensation to product roadmaps - not to sit in a dark room and merge business lines.

But this of course won't thwart speculation. TechCrunch writes, "Could close collaboration between online giant Google and Apple hardware pose the most viable threat yet to Microsoft’s long held personal computing leadership? It certainly seems possible.", while Om Malik somehow finds a dark corner in his soul to poo-poo the relationship, saying this "portends potential headaches not just for Microsoft, but for anyone with digital media ambitions." Right. As if with one swoop, iPod and iTunes are going to get that much more market share in the face of Zune and other challengers because some guy gets to visit the Cupertino campus every two months.

What it does do is further validate Apple's rise to prominence in a once-skeptical Silicon Valley. I know Google spends millions every quarter in new Apple equipment for employees, and at some point, those MacBook-carrying Webheads are going to want the latest and greatest Google gear to go. I hope that some of the speculation comes true and can prove me wrong.

Listening to ''Under One (JK Walker Remix)'', by Todd Tobias (Play Count: 6)

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