Google chief executive Eric Schmidt is taking a government inquiry into his role on Apple Inc’s board in stride, expressing confidence that the probe won’t find any evidence that the ties between the two companies throttle competition in mobile phones and other technology fields.
In a media session held on Thursday before Google’s shareholders meeting in Mountain View, Schmidt said he had no plans to step down from Apple’s board because he didn’t view the maker of the iPhone, iPod and computers as a “primary competitor.” He echoed that sentiment when a shareholder later asked him to step down from Apple’s board to avoid further government scrutiny.
Google attorney Kent Walker confirmed that the Mountain View-based company is in talks with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about whether its overlapping board relationships with Apple violate federal antitrust laws. The inquiry was reported by the New York Times earlier this week.
Both Schmidt and former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson are directors at Google and Apple.
Google makes most of its money from online advertising driven by its market-leading search engine. But it is the chief architect of an operating system called Android that already runs some mobile devices similar to the iPhone. Android is also going to be in low-cost computers called “netbooks” later this year.
Schmidt, who joined Apple’s board in 2006, told reporters that he recuses himself from all Apple board discussions involving the iPhone but doesn’t avoid talks on any other subject.