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Monday, March 15, 2010, 12:45 pm PT (03:45 pm ET)

Apple-Google battle heats up with key hires on both sides

Apple recently nabbed a former Google product manager for a secretive "pretty neat role" with the company, while a new Google employee has shared harsh words about Apple's "Disney-fied" approach to the mobile Internet.

Google recently hired well-known software developer Tim Bray, formerly of Oracle and Sun Microsystems. The developer wrote on his personal blog Monday that he will "enjoy competing with Apple," and shared some harsh words on what he feels are the iPhone maker's restrictive policies.

"The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet's future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what," Bray wrote. "It's a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord's pleasure and fear his anger. I hate it."

He continued: "I hate it even though the iPhone hardware and software are great, because freedom's not just another word for anything, nor is it an optional ingredient."

Bray said he views his new job with Google has an opportunity to prove that Apple is wrong in their approach to the mobile Internet. He noted that he's been a buyer of Apple systems for years, and despite his "current irritation," he will likely continue to do so. At Google, he will work on the Android mobile platform.

Last year, criticism of Apple's policies with the App Store mounted, prompting company executive Phil Schiller to personally fight back. But Apple came under fire again last month after the company changed its policy on "overtly sexual" content and purged more than 5,000 applications from the App Store.

As Google's latest hire took the opportunity to criticize the iPhone maker, Apple had its own key hire recently in the form of a former product manager with Google. TechCrunch discovered that R.J. Pittman, who it called a "prominent" employee with the search giant, has moved on to Apple.

Pittman sent a letter to his colleagues at Google in which he said the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 changed his life.

"I've owned almost one of every Apple product released since then, and still own my first Mac that started it all some 25 years ago," he wrote. "In a strange but not so strange way, this is sort of a homecoming for me, despite never having worked for Apple. Life works in curious ways, and I love it when every so often it comes full circle."

He went on to say that he would have a "pretty neat role" with Apple, but declined to say what it might be. TechCrunch speculated that Pittman could work with the employees Apple took on in its acquisition of streaming music service Lala, given his background with Google's own music search technology.

"That said, Apple could be after his other talents — Pittman had previously presented at the launches of other search-related products, including a Google Labs event," the report said. "And before that, he founded Groxis."

Last August, it was revealed that Apple and Google shared a gentlemen's agreement to not poach each others' employees, though these latest moves would suggest that deal is no longer in place. That should come as no surprise to any who have followed the growing rivalry between Google and Apple closely — a battle that one observer said resembles World War III due to the level of animosity between the two technology giants.