Jean-Louis Gassée: Tomorrow's Silicon Valley Rivalry is Apple vs. Google

Jean-Louis Gassée
Jean-Louis Gassée

The rivalry between Google and Apple is heating up, and Jean-Louis Gassée said Monday that Google is fast becoming a threat to Apple. This contrasts with the traditional view that both companies see Microsoft as their joint opponent, but in an op-ed piece for CBS News, Mr. Gassée wrote that Eric Schmidt's departure from Apple's board was not only overdue, but the proof of the pudding that both companies are serious competitors.

Long-time Apple observers will remember Mr. Gassée as the flamboyant and charismatic former Apple executive who was involved in the turf warfare that resulted in the ouster of Steve Jobs from the company he cofounded in the late 1980s. Mr. Gassée then became a prominent force within Apple until he left to form Be, Inc in the early 1990s.

Be was then almost bought by Apple when the company was looking for a replacement for Copland, the long-delayed replacement to Mac OS, which itself was deemed hopelessly mired down by then-CTO Ellen Hancock. Before ink could be set to contract, however, Apple changed direction and bought NeXT, instead, and with it, Steve Jobs.

The rest is largely history, with Apple eventually becoming a tech giant, while Be folded its doors. Mr. Gassée has been working the Venture Capital circuit since those days -- he is currently a partner with Allegis Capital -- and today's piece for CBS is the first Apple-specific commentary we've noted from him in many years.

Mr. Gassée argued that the success of the iPhone has made that product Apple's number one product, and signals the company's transformation into a service business, the same as Google. With Android and Chrome OS, Google challenges both the Mac platform (in the future) and the iPhone platform.

It's a convoluted argument he offers, made more so by the fact that English is his second language, but Mr. Gassée's experience with Apple, Steve Jobs, the tech world as a whole, and Silicon Valley in particular make it an interesting read.