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Google CEO Schmidt downplays perceived rivalry with Apple

Despite the fact that Google and Apple have been at odds of late as the two companies compete in more markets, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said this week that he has a "special spot" for Apple in his heart.

Schmidt's comments were made Thursday evening during a conference call after his company reported its quarterly earnings. Google's year-over-year revenue saw a 17 percent increase to $6.67 billion. During the question and answer session, Schmidt was asked about his company's relationship with Apple by Senior Analyst Sandeep Aggarwal with firm Collins Stewart.

"I, as a former board member, have a special spot for Apple in my heart," Schmidt responded, "but I will tell you Apple is a very well run company. They have a lot of very good stuff coming. We have a couple of very good partnerships with them, and we also compete with them in a couple of areas. My guess is that is a pretty stable situation for awhile."

Later, Jefferies & Co. analyst Youssef Squali indirectly inquired about reports from earlier this week that Apple and Microsoft are in talks to bring Bing search and maps to the iPhone. Currently, Google is the search and map provider for Apple's handset. Schmidt, however, declined to address the rumors.

"We are not going to speculate on the marketshare of Apple mobile products," Schmidt said. "That is for Apple to discuss with you. As far as I can tell, our business structures with Apple are quite stable. I am not going to speculate on any deals of any kind — rumored, true, not true, you name it. We are not going to talk about it."

Schmidt's comments come just days after CNBC's Jim Goldman claimed a source told him that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs "hates Eric (Schmidt)." The anonymous comment was used to explain why Apple has allegedly been in negotiations with Microsoft since late last year.

Schmidt's comments are similar to ones he made last year when he also denied any tension between Google and Apple. "We love the iPhone," he said at the time.

Schmidt resigned from the Apple Board of Directors last August, as both Google and Apple were the subjects of a Federal Trade Commmission investigation for potential antitrust ties. Schmidt chose to resign because Google's Android mobile operating system and forthcoming Chrome OS netbook operating system look to compete with Apple's iPhone and Mac OS X, respectively.

Apple, too, showed signs in 2009 that it intends to tread into Google's territory soon. Last summer, Apple purchased Google Maps competitor Placebase. Later in the year, it sought to hire a full-time employee to take its iPhone Maps application "to the next level."

Apple is also expected to enter the mobile advertising business after its purchase of Quattro Wireless, believed to be worth $275 million, in December. Through the acquisition, Apple also named the former CEO of Quattro Wireless, Andy Miller, to a new position: vice president of Mobile Advertising.