Google and Apple cosy relationship to be studied by FTC

8 May 2009

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking into the close links between Apple and Google – whose CEO Eric Schmidt sits on the board of both companies – and an anti-trust suit may yet emerge, as the two tech behemoths become smart-phone powerhouses.

As well as Schmidt (pictured), Arthur Levinson, the president and CEO of Genentech, also sits on the boards of both companies.

In recent days, Google’s general counsel Kent Walker confirmed the company is in pending discussions with the FTC concerning Apple and Google’s two shared directors.

US company law provides a safe harbour for mutual shareholders in cases where there are no overlapping revenues.

But with Apple already a major force in the smart phone business, and Google beginning to become omnipresent in mobile markets thanks to its Android operating system, this may be hard to prove.

As well as this, Apple computers come with a Safari web browser, while Google, in recent months, unveiled its Chrome web browser.

The problem may also deepen if Apple ever decides to create a netbook product based on its iPhone operating system because Android-powered netbooks are already tipped to enter the marketplace.

Schmidt, for his part, has stated that he does not consider Google and Apple to be competitors and absents himself when competitive issues are discussed.

Google shareholders yesterday voted to re-elect Google’s board of directors, approve its external auditing firm and make amendments to its stock plan.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Google CEO, Eric Schmidt