Apple has appointed Google chief executive Eric Schmidt to its board of directors, which is a no-brainer even if you consider only Schmidt’s experience and stature. On the face of it, it may look like just another one of those relationships that Silicon Valley is all about. This is a two-degrees-of-separation kind of place. Most big companies have these ties (Google already has Intel, Genentech, Stanford execs on its board, for example).
But this relationship looks to be more than that. Both companies share a similar culture. A fierce pride in having talented engineers who know how to do things best, and a coinciding tendency to be excessively secretive — because they think they have all these cool tech projects to hide (which may be true), and this engineering culture then permeates through the whole company. Remember Schmidt’s treatment of CNET, when a reporter simply revealed data about Schmidt from Google results that could be found by anyone? And Apple’s unsuccessful suit against groups like Think Secret which have revealed secretive Apple products before they were ready for release.
And of course, both want to take on the Microsoft giant up north. It sort of feels like the days when Netscape, Sun and others ganged up against it. Microsoft’s coming music player, Zune, is another rallying point for Apple, as it defends its iPod turf.
In a press release announcing the move, Apple CEO Steve Jobs cited Google’s focus on innovation and Schmidt’s extensive experience as reasons his appointment will be helpful in guiding Apple’s future course.
Schmidt joined Google in 2001 after spending six years as CEO of Novell, and as MacWorld rightly puts it, “the last of them rocky as the company failed to shift gears from its NetWare OS to the Internet” — but that has all been forgiven with Googles’ subsequent success.