Google’s Eric Schmidt: I Might Step Off Apple’s Board. Eh, or Not.

Earlier today, at the annual weeklong retreat organized by banker Herb Allen in Sun Valley, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told reporters that he’ll soon talk about his role as an Apple board member with Steve Jobs and the rest of his board colleagues. Though some would say that conversation is long overdue, the impetus for the talk is Google’s new Chrome operating system. Apple, of course, has its own software platform, the OS X.
If Schmidt does step off Apple’s board, he probably won’t be much missed at this point. He says he’s already been recusing himself from Apple board meetings where the iPhone would be discussed, ever since Google launched its own mobile phone operating system, Android. (Android was introduced back in November 2007; presumably, every Apple board meeting between then and now has featured plenty of talk about the iPhone.)

Not that it sounds like Schmidt is ready to give up his prestigious board seat. “I’ll talk to the Apple people,” he says earlier. “At the moment, there’s no issue.”

I think the government is going to wind up disagreeing with him on that. In defense of his role at Apple, for example, Schmidt pointed out that the Chrome, based on open-source technology, worked with Apple’s Safari browser. Okay, except that under federal antitrust law, a person can’t sit on the board of two companies if it decreases competition between them. (In fact, Schmidt’s seat has already been under federal investigation since May.)