Speaking at the AllThingsD conference last night, Tim Cook suggested Apple has had its rivalry with Google on the brain, furthering the simmering war between the two companies.
Cook mentioned copy-cats and rip-offs more than once, reminiscent of the way Steve Jobs had described Android phones, calling them a "stolen product." Jobs hated Google, as we learned from the Walter Isaacson's biography of the late Apple founder. Cook, a kinder, gentler version of Jobs, didn't say anything quite as seething. He didn't even come right out and mention the G-word, but when talking patent wars, mobile phones, social, and TV he hinted at Apple's tension with Google. These companies once had little in common, but have grown more competitive than ever, as we learned from Farhad Manjoo in Fast Company. And even this post-Jobs regime understands where the battles will be fought:
Following rumors that Apple is thinking about ditching Google Maps for its own maps service for no other reason than spite, Cook reiterated where Apple's Android spite stems from, while talking patents. "From our point of view it’s important that Apple not be the developer for the world," Cook said during an interview with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, suggesting that Apple designs and the rest (ie. Android phones) copy and then profit from that design. "We take all of our energy and all of our care, and to have someone else put their name on it? The worst thing in the world that can happen to you if you’re [an] engineer and you’ve given your life to something is for someone to rip it off and put their name on it. We just don’t want people ripping us off," he continued. People, of course, refers to Android. It also referes to the never-ending patent spat Apple has gotten itself into with Samsung, which designs phones for the Android platform.
A bit subtler than his Android jab, Cook, when speaking of Apple's approach to social, alluded to Google's failure in that space. Social is a space where neither Apple nor Google excel. But both understand its importance for their futures. "Apple doesn’t have to own a social network, if that’s the heart of your question," Cook told Swisher and Mossberg. Google, of course, thought it did have to have its own social network and well, that experiment has yet to prove it has worked. "But does Apple need to be social? Yes. But the ways that we express that today are integrating Twitter into iOS, and you’ll see us integrate Twitter into Mac OS with Mountain Lion. Some people think of iMessage as social," he continued, showing that Apple has a different (better?) approach to social. In a the enemy of my enemy is my friend move, Cook also suggested the company might team up with Facebook, which Google copied with its very similar social network. Remember: Apple hates copy-cats. "I think we can do more with them. Stay tuned on this one," Cook said, deflecting a question about Facebook integration.
Even here, an area where Apple has only just cultivated a tiny patch of ground to stand on, Cook managed to slip in an anti-Google remark. "This is an area where I think we’re advanced," Cook said, referencing the advances Apple has made at Foxconn. "And I hope people rip us off blindly." In a slick move by Cook, that "rip-off" word again alludes to all the ripping off Google did of Apple hardware.
Both and Apple and Google are a in a race to revolutionize TV. Google has already tried and failed at that dream once. But, it's at it again. Because of iTunes and some off handed comment Steve Jobs made to Isaacson, the world expects Apple to put out something life-changing. A very smooth Cook didn't give Google anything to copy, this time. "It’s an interesting area. We’ll have to see what we do," he said. But he also let Google know, Apple's getting serious about TV. "We’re going to keep pulling the string and see where it takes us… I think many people would say, [TV] is an area in their life where they’re not really pleased with it," Cook added. "We’re not a hobby kind of company."
Alright, Google. What do you have to say to that?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.