Apple and Google may have more in common than the Federal Trade Commission would like.
The companies share two members of their board of directors, Eric Schmidt and Arthur Levinson. According to antitrust laws, the presence of a director on the boards of two rival companies could reduce competition between them, making for a violation of the rarely-enforced “interlocking directorates” provision of the law.
Google and Apple have only recently been considered competitors; the former produces the Android operating system for smartphones and the latter peddles the iPhone, and the two companies also have competing Web browsers. According to The New York Times, the FTC has notified both Apple and Google of their interest in the potential violation. (Below, the Googleplex.)
While the investigation is still in its incipience, it’s the second potential anti-trust examination for Google this spring. That’s not surprising, considering the recently-confirmed head of the Justice Department’s anti-trust division, Christine Varney, specifically mentioned Google as a target for increased surveillance last year, due to its massive marketshare of search and online advertising.
All that, despite the fact that Eric Schmidt, one of the directors in question, is an appointee to President Obama’s council on science and technology.
Should the Justice Department choose to pursue the Apple/Google matter, it will likely result in the resignation of one or both of the directors from one board or another before any crimes are charged.