Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO and current Chairman, talked to AllThingsD’s Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher for an hour on Wednesday evening, sharing his views on Google’s current state of affairs but also on the tech world as a whole.
Apple came up quite a few times during the interview, with Schmidt eyeing it as one of the most important Google competitors, if not the most important one – he sees important rivals in other companies like Amazon and Facebook, but not Microsoft, at least not for now. In fact, looking at the live coverage of the event on AllThingsD we counted how many times each company was mentioned: Apple (18,) Facebook (11,) Amazon (6,) and Microsoft (7). Google was mentioned 24 times.
But the Apple vs Google war is very important for the current state of the mobile wars. And Schmidt doesn’t believe Android is winning outright, or at least his statements aren't paining such a picture yet. He did say that Apple “has thousands of developers building for it,” but at the same time that “Android is even larger. Four times more Android phones than Apple phones.” In fact, it looks like Google is activating 1.3 million Android devices per day, and that at that rate it will hit 1 billion Android devices in a year.
It’s not a secret that while Google holds the market share when it comes to smartphone operating systems, it’s actually Apple that has the most profitable mobile endeavor. But Schmidt did say that competition is a factor that will reduce Apple’s huge margins on iPhone sales.
As for Google’s Android allies, Schmidt did not want to comment on the Apple vs Samsung situation, and specifically the U.S. $1.05 billion defeat to Apple, although it did say that he knows “Samsung is very upset.”
The former CEO stayed away of the FTC investigation into Motorola (Google) on standard-essential patent use in such mobile trials, but he did say that he wasn’t aware of all the details to offer a more detailed answer, but that it also “gets [him] too upset.”
As we told you before, Schmidt identified Apple, Facebook and Amazon as the most important Google rivals, because one way or another Google is involved into a variety of projects that compete directly with similar endeavors from these three important tech companies.
When asked directly by the audience about whether he’d choose Apple, Amazon or Facebook if he had to be CEO again, he offered a politically correct answer at first:
I was on Apple’s board, and I’ll always have a soft spot for them. I was very good friends and very close to Steve Jobs, and we miss him dearly. Jeff Bezos has made remarkable moves. And again, Facebook has a billion users.
But then Mossberg pressed on for an actual answer and Schmidt revealed that he’d choose Apple:
Which one has the most cash? That would be Apple.
This wasn't the first time Apple’s cash was a topic of discussion. When talking about Google’s Android strategy – being a product company but also the software providers for its partners – mixed with the company’s ‘old’ ambition to “collect all the world’s information,” Schmidt revealed that Google still wants to be “in the center of the information revolution.” He added that “the world doesn’t need more copycat products; it needs innovative products.” Where does Apple’s cash come into this mix? Well he did say that Apple “has the cash, people and scale to do what Google is trying to do,” but that he wasn’t “sure about Facebook and Amazon.”
Of course, Schmidt isn’t going anywhere, at least not for a while, not to mention that the CEO spot at Apple is already taken by Tim Cook, and as long the company stays profitable and the stock goes up, he’s not going to go anywhere either.