In recent months, Google and Apple have gone from being somewhat complementary companies to direct competitors. According to Apple, Schmidt stepped down because of a conflict of interest.
"Eric has been an excellent board member for Apple, investing his valuable time, talent, passion and wisdom to help make Apple successful," Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple's core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric's effectiveness as an Apple board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple's board."
Schmidt had been a member of Apple's board of directors since 2006.
It seemed only matter of time before Schmidt was forced to step down from his role with Apple. The Google CEO was already excusing himself from board meetings when the iPhone was discussed, as Google has its own competing smartphone OS on the market in Android, which was launched in October of last year.
Last September, Google rolled out its own Web browser, Chrome. Apple, of course, has its own browser in Safari, adding another level of competition between Google and the iPhone maker.
Just this month, Google enhanced its Chrome browser, revealing that it would become a full-fledged OS in the second half of 2010. That added at least a third level of competition between the two companies, with Apple's OS X running on all of its hardware.
With Google's stated intention of developing Chrome into an OS and Schmidt already recusing himself from board conversation around the iPhone, one has to wonder when the Google CEO would actually be present during Apple board meetings. While the timing of Schmidt's resignation from the Apple board is somewhat surprising -- especially given his somewhat defensive nature defending his position on Apple's board -- it was really only a matter of time until he was forced to step down.
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