Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is a smooth talker but apparently he has talked himself into a controversy regarding his relationship with Steve Jobs.
To hear Schmidt tell it, he and Jobs were pals and their companies were friendly as well. In an interview with The New York Times the day after the Apple co-founder died on October 5, Schmidt downplayed reports that he and Jobs, as well as their two companies, had fallen out over Google's decision to launch Android.
"We understood it was a possibility when I joined the board," Schmidt said of the business conflicts. "We had adult conversations about it at the beginning and the end...all those reports in the press were wrong. After I left the board, they had me to events and to private dinners."
Now compare that statement to the one Jobs gave to Walter Isaacson, the author of a Jobs biography going on sale next week. "I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this," Jobs told Isaacson about Apple's patent lawsuit filed against cell phone manufacturer HTC, according to The Huffington Post.
"Our lawsuit is saying, 'Google you f***ing ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off. I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product."
That doesn't sound like Jobs had a lot of forgiveness for Google, which Schmidt oversaw as CEO when Android was launched. It certainly would also call into question whether Jobs felt much warmth for Schmidt. That Jobs felt betrayed when Google rolled out Android isn't new. Last year, the Times reported that Jobs used an expletive during an Apple all-hands meeting to deride Google's "Don't Be Evil" mantra.
One thing that mustn't be overlooked is that Jobs didn't make the same kind of public statements about Google while he was alive. He offered them to Isaacson knowing he didn't have long to live. With Isaacson, Jobs also criticized others, including Bill Gates. Some of the passages from the book suggest Jobs could be an angry, maybe even spiteful, man.
Be that as it may, why does Schmidt try to paint a pretty picture about his relationship with Jobs for the public?
He may be trying to make peace with Apple. According to reports, Schmidt had met with Jobs to try to resolve their Android issues. He might have been taught that speaking ill of the dead is wrong. Or maybe Schmidt doesn't want to be seen as a Judas. At a time when Jobs is being lionized and mourned, maybe Schmidt doesn't want to be seen as a guy who betrayed an icon.
One thing we do know for certain, there are some people who are offended about what they consider revisionist history.
"Schmidt needs to be called out for this deliberate attempt to deceive the public," wrote Eric Jackson, a Forbes contributing writer. "And it deserves an explanation and apology."
A Google spokesman declined to comment for this story.
Disclosure: Simon & Schuster, the publisher of the upcoming Steve Jobs biography, is owned by CBS. CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.