Inside The Apple-Google War: It's Personal

Today's New York Times has a long, juicy look at what's going on behind the scenes with the ever-escalating conflict between Google and Apple. The cause for all the enmity? Ego.

The article draws from "interviews with two dozen industry watchers, Silicon Valley investors and current and former employees at both companies," all of whom offer a sense of just how personal this battle is and always has been. The Times writers explain:

At the heart of their dispute is a sense of betrayal: Mr. Jobs believes that Google violated the alliance between the companies by producing mobile phones that physically, technologically and spiritually resembled the iPhone. In short, he feels that his former friends at Google picked his pocket.

The article starts with the good old days, when the two companies were cooperative and when the individuals that ran them were close. Even before the mutually-beneficial industry chuminess between Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt, Jobs had a personal relationship with those heading Google. In the company's early days, the article explains, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin "considered Mr. Jobs a mentor":

[Sergey]Brin was also known to take long walks with Mr. Jobs near his house in Palo Alto, and in the nearby foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. According to colleagues, they discussed the future of technology and planned some joint ventures that never came to fruition - like a collaborative effort to develop a version of Apple's Safari browser for Windows.

Google's development of Android, however, was the thin end of the wedge. Even in its early stages, Android was a source of tension, the article explains:

At one particularly heated meeting in 2008 on Google's campus, Mr. Jobs angrily told Google executives that if they deployed a version of multitouch - the popular iPhone feature that allows users to control their devices with flicks of their fingers - he would sue. Two people briefed on the meeting described it as "fierce" and "heated."

Eventually, we on the outside caught wind of the conflict. As early as January 2008, Jobs was slighting Android, and a year after that we heard that Apple had stopped multitouch on Android. We watched on when Apple rejected Google Voice from the app store. And we knew they meant business when their acquisitions became undeniably competitive, Apple allegedly feeling thatGoogle "stole" AdMobfrom them and preemptively gobbling up Lala in return. On the AdMob acquisition, the article's sources suggest, "Mr. Jobs speculated that AdMob might have violated its legal obligations, with help from Google." Apple's recent patent infringement suit against HTC was just confirmation that the bad blood was on its way to becoming a blood bath.

In January we heard that Apple was in talks with Microsoft to replace Google with Bing as the default search engine on iPhones and iPads, and the Times article ends by mentioning that "One Apple employee says that Qi Lu, the president of Microsoft's online services division, was recently seen visiting Apple's campus in Cupertino to discuss such a deal".

The Apple-Google war is waged by relentless corporations, but it is fuelled by the bruised egos of individuals. Getting a better picture of how personal the conflict has been all along, it's hard to imagine the giants reconciling anytime soon. [NY Times]