Google's Schmidt Finds It Curious that Apple Hasn't Sued Google

Eric Schmidt is Curious Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is Curious

Google chairman Eric Schmidt finds it curious that Apple hasn't sued his company. We find that to be a curious choice of words, but it does raise the question of what is Apple's current end-game for its patent war with Android.

Adults

Mr. Schmidt's comments were part of an interview the tech exec gave to The Wall Street Journal. When asked how the relationship between Apple and Google have changed during the last year—a year in which we saw Larry Page take over from Mr. Schmidt as CEO of Google and Steve Jobs pass away and leave his company to Tim Cook—Mr. Schmidt said that both companies were adults about their competition.

"It's always been on and off," he said about that relationship." Obviously, we would have preferred them to use our maps. They threw YouTube off the home screen [of iPhones and iPads]. I'm not quite sure why they did that."

He then ridiculed the press for pursuing and portraying a "sort of teenage model of competition." He said that model is based around the idea of, "I have a gun, you have a gun, who shoots first?" but that this misses the reality.

"The adult way to run a business is to run it more like a country," he said. "They have disputes, yet they've actually been able to have huge trade with each other. They're not sending bombs at each other."

He said that Messrs. Cook and Page both understand this, and that, "When they and their teams meet, they have just a long list of things to talk about."

Patents

When asked if Apple and Google are discussing a patent settlement, Mr. Schmidt (rightly) deflected, saying simply that talks between the two companies, "are going on all the time," and that patents are one of the areas that are discussed.

He then added the line that we found curious: "It's extremely curious that Apple has chosen to sue Google's partners and not Google itself."

Curiouser and Curiouser

One way to read Mr. Schmidt's comment is that he thinks Apple has reason to sue Google, and finds it curious that Apple hasn't pursued that option. That's an unsophisticated reading, however, as Mr. Schmidt has his own brand of mastery when it comes to delivering messages through the press.

Steve Jobs had his infamous "reality distortion field," or RDF, but Mr. Schmidt has often uttered cryptic and/or pointed comments that usually reveal something he wanted to reveal, rather than simply being mistakes. Mr. Schmidt is an exceedingly intelligent person, and he chooses his words carefully.

Would You Like To Play A Game?

The reality is that when Apple first began suing Android OEMs for infringing on its design and utility patents, many assumed that it would rack up some wins and then use those wins to go after Google itself. Steve Jobs famously called Android a "stolen product," and that he would go to thermonuclear war to right that wrong.

Current CEO Tim Cook has taken a quieter approach, but he has made it clear that it would be unacceptable for Apple to be the inventor for the world.

In the process of engaging in this patent war, Apple has won many victories, though most of those victories are in the appeals process or were won so late in a product's lifespan that they were moot. Apple has even settled with one company, HTC, one of the first companies it sued.

What Apple hasn't done, however, is sue Google. It's not too late, of course. Apple could still sue Google. The company could be waiting to secure what it thinks would be a knockout blow against Android itself, or the company may simply be trying not to over-extend itself. The battles with Samsung and Motorola are enormous fights in and of themselves, and a fight against Google proper will be a taxing one.

Or Not?

It's also possible, however, that Google was never the target, or if it was, that changes in the landscape have made Google a difficult or otherwise undesirable target to hit.

Still, it's highly unusual for a top executive of a multibillion dollar corporate giant to express dismay that his company hasn't been sued. Google and its top execs tend to play by different rules than the ones foisted off on other companies, but it was definitely a curious choice of words.

There's more in the full interview about antitrust concerns (whatever), Mr. Schmidt's willingness to accept a government post (no), and the state of Android fragmentation (denial).