Chrome OS raises directorship questions

July 9, 2009 // 10 a.m.

Tags: #apple #arthur-levinson #chrome #eric-schmidt #google #google-chrome #google-chrome-os #google-operating-system #google-os

The surprise announcement of Google's Linux-based operating system – dubbed Chrome OS – has lead to calls for Eric Schmidt to step down from his role on Apple's board.

According to an article by CNet's Tom Krazit, Schmidt's position on Apple's board of directors represents a conflict of interest which can only be resolved with Schmidt leaving one company or the other.

While Google was offering purely web-based functionality – search engines, document collaboration – it made sense that it was able to work hand in hand with Apple, with the two company's offerings complementing each other. After all, a computer offering easy Internet access isn't much good without an easy way of finding content on the web.

The first rumblings of discontent arrived, however, with the launch of Google's Android platform for smartphones – and the T-Mobile G1 which first brought it to market. Now, the two companies were competing in the smartphone market head to head – and Schmidt was still on the board of both companies.

Now the a new battleground has been selected: operating systems. While it's not a direct competition as yet – with Chrome OS being directed at the netbook market which Apple is so disparaging towards – it's becoming increasingly apparent to many in the industry that Schmidt's presence at both companies is, at least, uncomfortable.

It's not just industry watchers who are getting the impression that Schmidt might be playing both sides of the field: back in May the US Federal Trade Commission investigated the ties between both companies – specifically, the shared directorships enjoyed by Eric Schmidt and Arthur Levinson. Now the two companies are clearly in competition, the FTC may rule under a 1914 law – which prevents a person from being on the board of two separate companies with a view to colluding to reduce competition in the marketplace – that Levinson and Schmidt need to resign one or the other posts.

Do you think that Apple and Google are now competing strongly enough for a shared directorship to be questionable, or should Schmidt be left alone to bring his expertise to both companies? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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