Google CEO Bails on Apple

Some things just aren’t meant to last. Like the Apple-Google mutual appreciation society, for instance.

Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt said Monday that he would resign from Apple Inc.’s board, which he has sat on since 2006. The news comes amid government mulling of an antitrust investigation concerning the two companies.

The two could indeed be seen as an example of “coopetition:” Apple’s iPhone runs Google apps natively, and the Google search engine is the default in Apple’s Safari Web browser, for instance. However, some would see the move as necessary considering the increasing competition between the two. Google is set to release its Chrome OS for computing next year, which will directly challenge Apple in its bread-and-butter Mac business. And, Apple was just forced to block Google Voice from the App Store, since that service eats into the revenue of AT&T Inc., Apple’s iPhone carrier. Also, Google’s Android mobile OS is finally beginning to see some traction in powering handsets that can take on the iPhone.

Meanwhile, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the resignation – a “mutual decision,” he noted – is based on Schmidt’s inability to serve the board adequately.

Schmidt, Jobs said in a statement, often recuses himself in meetings due to conflicts of interest, which has “significantly diminished” his ability to serve as director.

It could be a statement geared to stymie claims of flip-flopping. Just last May, Schmidt had said he planned to stay on Apple’s board despite speculation that his doing so violated U.S. antitrust rules.

“Google and Apple are responding to government pressure,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Kaufman Bros., told Bloomberg news. According to an unnamed source, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Schmidt’s being on both companies’ boards is a monopolistic action.

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