Update: According to Google, Eric actually said that he was on the Apple board until he couldn’t stay on the board anymore.
Salesforce.com’s rock concert style Dreamforce 2011 conference has attracted industry heavy-weights, such as Google chairman Eric Schmidt who openly lauded Apple chairman Steve Jobs’s industry-defining achievements. In a chat with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff on stage at San Francisco’s Moscone West center, Apple’s preferred venue for product launches, Schmidt said this of Apple’s former chief executive:
What Steve has done at Apple is certainly the best performance of a CEO for over fifty years, maybe a hundred years. But not only did he do it once, he did it twice. We’ve all benefited from the tremendous innovation at Apple. And I say this as a very proud former board member at Apple.
Of course, the comment earned Schmidt an instant applaud from the audience. He then addressed the question of his stay on Apple’s board at a time when Apple had already been deeply involved with the development of the original iPhone. He said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:
I was on the board until I couldn’t stand the board anymore.
He wouldn’t elaborate, but it’s worth remembering that Schmidt resigned from Apple’s board of directors on August 3, 2009, years after Apple had finished the original iPhone development and well into the third-generation of the iconic handset. Steve Jobs was quoted in Apple’s official statement explaining Schmidt’s exit:
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.
Of course, Jobs wouldn’t shy away from touching on the subject in later public appearances. For example, he made it clear it was Google who decided to compete with Apple, not the other way round. He told the Walt Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg at D8 conference last year that “we didn’t enter the search business”.