Google says Apple’s mobile patent war is ‘for show’

by Phil Hornshaw

Apple and Google didn’t really get along too well in the last few years of Steve Jobs serving as Apple’s CEO before his death. Or at least, that’s how it seemed.

Jobs was somewhat famously harsh on the competition in statements. When talking about Android, Jobs generally liked to poke fun in a mostly harmless way, although there were a few instance when he had some choice words about what he thought of Android in general. And then there are the huge patent fights, still on-going today, that basically pit Apple against Google’s Android partners as Apple accuses them of infringing on things like its smartphone and tablet design.

But to hear Google CEO Larry Page tell it, the “war” between Apple and Google wasn’t nearly as big of a deal as it always appeared to be, or as it was portrayed in the Steve Jobs biography written by Walter Isaacson. In fact, Page told Bloomberg in an interview about his first year at the helm of Google that the very public war was mostly “for show” on Apple’s side.

“I think the Android differences were actually for show,” Page said during the interview. “I had a relationship with Steve. I wouldn’t say I spent a lot of time with him over the years, but I saw him periodically.”

Page went a little further when pressed on what he meant by the phrase “for show,” explaining that Jobs’ position of making Android the enemy was probably good for business, especially for employee morale.

“I think that served their interests,” Page said. “For a lot of companies, it’s useful for them to feel like they have an obvious competitor and to rally around that. I personally believe that it’s better to shoot higher. You don’t’ want to be looking at your competitors. You want to be looking at what’s possible and how to make the world better.”

That’s an interesting take for Page to have, and it’s not unlikely that Jobs played up his animosity for Android because it did serve some handy functions, like getting Apple in the press and bolstering a united front among its employees, as well as fans.

But Google certainly needs to keep an eye on the competition. In addition to the court battles raging all over the world, the company is reportedly working on finding a way to get itself into the tablet market with a Google-branded device. It’s no stretch to say that Apple’s dominance in that realm against all comers in the Android camp remains incredibly strong, but if anybody has a chance to break in and bring a David to fight Apple’s Goliath, it’s Google.

You can read the rest of the interview at Bloomberg.