Will Schmidt's exit change the Apple-Google battle?

Unlikely, analysts say, but one sees prospect of new Apple alliances in its fight with Google

Eric Schmidt
Google CEO Eric Schmidt will step aside in April. (Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith)

Eric Schmidt's exit as the CEO of Google won't affect the dynamics of the company's battles with Apple in the smartphone and tablet wars, analysts said today.

During an earnings call Thursday, Schmidt announced that he would step down in April, and that co-founder Larry Page would take over as CEO. Schmidt will remain with Google as its executive chairman, and will focus on long-range deals and partnerships, as well as building relationships with businesses and governments.

Google and Apple have been brawling in the mobile market since late 2009, when smartphones powered by Google's Android operating system started selling in quantities, and are lined up to compete even more this year as Android-based tables begin to take on Apple's iPad.

According to some estimates, Android-based smartphones now outsell the iPhone in the U.S., putting pressure on Apple to boost sales.

The tension between the two California companies has been intense at times, with Apple executives denigrating Android -- one called tablets using the OS "bizarre" earlier this week -- and Schdmit forced off Apple's board of directors in August during a FTC (Federal Trade Commission) inquiry into possible antitrust issues.

But Schmidt's exodus from the CEO's chair isn't likely to mean much, at least in the short- and mid-term, to the tussle between Google and Apple.

"I don't think it will change the situation at all," said Brian Marshall, an analyst with Gleacher & Co. who tracks Apple. "The companies will continue on the paths that they're now on for the foreseeable future. Google will throw things against the wall and sees what sticks, and Apple will continue to focus on great products."

Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research agreed. "I can't imagine what Google would do differently in respect to Android and Chrome OS just because Schmidt is no longer CEO," Gottheil said. "Google and Apple are obviously battling for the same turf -- both for the right reasons -- and that won't change."

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