It's Google CEO Larry Page in the blue (and red and yellow and blue again and green and red again) corner, and Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson in the correct share of white corner in a battle for the ages -- was Steve Jobs genuinely ticked over Google copying the iPhone for Android, or was that just a lot of sound and fury to rally the Apple faithful?
Page kicked it off with comments in a recent Bloomberg interview:
I think the Android differences were actually for show. [...] I think that served their interests. For a lot of companies, it’s useful for them to feel like they have an obvious competitor and to rally around that. I personally believe that it’s better to shoot higher. You don’t want to be looking at your competitors. You want to be looking at what’s possible and how to make the world better.
Using an "enemy" as a way to focus and motivate your troops is an age-old strategy, and it works. Of course, Android had to be looking at its competitors to shift from a BlackBerry and Windows Mobile Standard-style device to an iPhone-style device shortly after January 2007. But Isaacson cries foul on the spin as a whole. Speaking at the Royal Institution, Isaacson said it was a repeat of Microsoft and the Mac UI all over again. And it wasn't just the copying of ideas but the "promiscuous" licensing of those copied ideas to others.
[The Microsoft Windows situation was] almost copied verbatim by Android. And then they licence it around promiscuously. And then Android starts surpassing Apple in market share, and this totally infuriated him. It wasn't a matter of money. He said: 'You can't pay me off, I'm here to destroy you'.
Jobs previous quote read, in part:
I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.
Steve Jobs passed away last year so can't set the record straight, if indeed the record on something like this even needs to be set straight. Tim Cook runs Apple now, so he and his board and his executive team now determine Apple's response to Google and Android. (Hint: He's often said he's in favor of competition, but prefers them to come at Apple with their own innovations.)
It is interesting to hear Page's account, however. If nothing else, it shows what the person currently running Google wants us to think, and maybe that means a better relationship could once again be possible?