Eric Schmidt: Google v Apple is the ultimate tech showdown

Eric Schmidt: Google v Apple is the ultimate tech showdownGoogle chairman Eric Schmidt reckons the number of Android devices around the planet will push past the one billion mark within a year, and says Google's fight with Apple for ultimate tech supremacy is the “defining fight” of the mobile industry.

The two companies were once close allies, but the emergence of Android as a direct threat to Apple's mobile ambitions has increasingly strained their relationship – to the point where Apple fast-tracked its clearly flawed Maps service onto iOS 6 just to keep Google Maps off it.

That decision has been widely slammed as a mistake, with Apple CEO Tim Cook last week having delivered that rarest of things from Apple: an apology. But within the broader context of Apple v Google, it's just another skirmish in a war that's being fought on multiple fronts.

“The Android-Apple platform fight is the defining fight in the industry today,” Schmidt said in an interview with AllThingsD this week. “We’ve not seen platform fights at this scale [before].”

Schmidt reckons the consumer is the ultimate beneficiary, with greater competition naturally leading to lower prices, though he concedes that much of that good work is undone when leading industry players stifle innovation by taking the fight into the courtrooms over patents.

“These patent wars are death,” he conceded. “I think this is ultimately bad, bad for innovation. It eliminates choices.”

As for Apple Maps, Google said he knew it was coming, but that Apple probably didn't appreciate the amount of time, money and hard work involved in creating a competitive mapping service.

“Apple should have kept with our maps,” he said. “The fact of the matter is they decided a long time ago to do their own maps, and we saw this coming with their acquisitions. I think Apple has learned that maps are hard. We invested hundred of millions of dollars in satellite work, airplane work, drive-by work, and we think we have the best product in the industry.”

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