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Wednesday, July 08, 2009, 03:40 pm PT (06:40 pm ET)

Chrome OS may push Google CEO off of Apple's board

Apple and Google have had a warm relationship for years, but the unveiling of Chrome OS on Wednesday may leave Apple with no choice but to oust Google chief Eric Schmidt from its board due to a conflict of interest.

Veteran journalist Tom Krazit warns that the two Silicon Valley companies will face an inevitable collision once the new web-based operating system is released and it has to compete against Mac OS X, rendering it more and more unreasonable for Schmidt to help oversee Apple's broader strategy.

The CEO is already in hot water with regulators as he frequently has to recuse himself from board meetings that involve iPhone plans, many of which would clash with Google's own attempts to promote its Android mobile operating system. Even though he makes this exception and has been adamant that the two companies don't occupy the same markets, the FTC has been investigating the Apple-Google link for a possible violation of antitrust laws through unfair collaboration. The companies are already known to be finding common ground as they both offer web browsers and, more recently, video services that involve commercially-produced, downloadable content.

With Chrome OS in place, Schmidt would not only have the obvious problem of conflicts in specific apps but with the original cornerstone of Apple's business and two out of three of the pillars that keep it running. Only board meetings discussing the iPod would be safe for him to attend, Krazit comments through CNET.

Apple and Google haven't yet discussed any of the implications for the new platform strategy. Unofficially, the software isn't thought to spark any near-term trouble: with the netbook as a primary target for Chrome OS and Apple deriding the category as unsuitable for the Mac name, few if any systems are liable to run one operating system and offer similar features as a computer running the other. Still, the similarity is close enough that calls are already being made for Schmidt to voluntarily resign from the Apple board to avoid butting heads with the US government any more than necessary.

"If Apple's board doesn't ask you do to so, please submit your resignation so both companies can free themselves of this obvious conflict of interest, and continue to develop the amazing products and services you have been separately creating," Krazit says.