Google making friends at Sun Valley conference: Apple, Hollywood



The sometimes stormy relationship between Google and Apple appears to be growing friendlier, with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt telling Reuters at the annual Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley that the two companies were having “lots and lots” of meetings.

Schmidt did not provide details about the nature of the meetings during comments to reporters at the annual Allen and Co media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho on Thursday. He noted that Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora, who joined him at the press briefing, was leading many of the discussions.

The two companies are in “constant business discussions on a long list of issues,” Schmidt said.

The two companies started out close. Schmidt joined Apple’s board in 2006, and the iPhone launched with both Google Maps and YouTube on board. That was to change after Google’s Android platform began growing in popularity, with Steve Jobs threatening “thermonuclear war” on Google over what he felt was a copycat product … 

Schmidt resigned from Apple’s board in 2009, when Google launched its desktop operating system, ChromeOS. As recently as last year, he described the battle between iOS and Android as the “defining fight of the industry today.” Apple replaced Google Maps with such haste that Tim Cook was forced to issue an apology, and when the Google Maps became available as an optional download on iOS devices, it saw 10M downloads in 48 hours. The iOS YouTube app was also given the boot by Apple, leaving room for an App Store version produced by Google.

Neither party is saying anything about the content of the meetings, and a report from the same conference by Bloomberg doesn’t necessarily suggest the closest of relationships:

Moments later, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook walked by, prompting Nikesh Arora, Google’s chief business officer, to shout out: “Tim, everybody here wants to take your picture!” Cook complied, without saying anything.

“We got Tim to smile,” Schmidt said. “Always a good thing.”

Bloomberg reports that Schmidt said he has “a lot of respect for Apple.”

“We’re sort of in constant, constant business discussions on a long list of issues,” Schmidt said. “These are two proud, well-run, different companies.”

Competition between the two is, however, likely to be increased by Google’s reputed plans to spend half a billion dollars promoting its Motorola Mobility subsidiary’s Moto X handset due for launch later this year.

Relationships between Google and the film industry, often critical of the volume of pirated content on YouTube and the ease with with people can use Google to search for pirate sites, also appear to be improving. Variety reported that while Schmidt began with a defiant note – “The industry would like us to edit the web and literally delete sites, and that goes counter to our philosophy” – he went on to point out the anti-piracy steps taken by Google and YouTube.

“It is an absolute fact that there are pirate sites and we’ve done things to reduce the amount of people who use them,” Schmidt said […] According to Arora, Google has shut down 82,000 AdSense users who have infringed on content owners’ rights in some way […]

Because of these and other efforts, YouTube senior VP Salar Kamangar says that Google’s relationship with studios and labels is “completely different” than it was four or five years ago.

“Completely different,” Schmidt immediately echoed.

As if to underline the point, Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein arrived minutes after Schmidt had spoken to say that he had never accused Google of stealing content.

“Google doesn’t steal, they’re a great company,” Weinstein said when asked whether he agreed that Google had improved its relationship with Hollywood. “I hope so … if they have with the studios, that’s good enough for me.”

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