UPDATED 09:12 EDT / OCTOBER 11 2012

Eric Schmidt Excludes Microsoft In “Gang of Four”

The always candid Google Chairman Eric Schmidt seems to have an opinion on most anything, especially matters pertaining to Google’s business, which covers a range of industries, products and services.  In an interview this week with AllThingsD, Schmidt discusses patent wars, Apple Maps, self-driving cars and more.

Schmidt equates the ongoing patent wars currently plaguing the mobile industry with death, noting innovation is being hindered by companies with huge patent portfolios.  And the casualties are usually the small innovative companies who don’t have the money to beef up their patents.

“Patent wars are a disaster for all of us. Everyone can find prior art for everything. So the new trick is to get judges to block devices country by country. It’s bad for innovation, it’s bad for choices,” Schmidt says.

As for the Apple/Google Maps war, Schmidt things Apple should’ve stuck with using Google Maps for their devices, but they knew that the separation would eventually happen since Apple made all those acquisitions related to navigation.  He wasn’t clear if Google is making an iOS app of Google Maps, but stated that if they do make it, Apple would have to approve it.  That’s quite a sticking point for Google, as some of their iOS apps have been denied by Apple in the past.

“Apple should have kept with our maps,” he said. “The fact of the matter is they decided a long time ago to do their own maps and we saw this coming with their acquisitions. I think Apple has learned that maps are hard. We invested hundred of millions of dollars in satellite work, airplane work, drive-by work, and we think we have the best product in the industry.”

Schmidt was also asked about Google’s self-driving car, something the chairman is pretty excited about.  Schmidt mentioned that people aren’t supposed to be driving because of the huge margin of human error, which results in fatality.  He feels computers would be the best drivers, once all the bugs get ironed out.  Google’s also in talks with car manufacturers for the possibility of licensing the technology for future vehicles, in case Google doesn’t plan on mass-producing the Google driverless car, still a prototype.

The interview also covered the “Gang of Four,” which the chairman mentioned in an interview a couple of years back.  The Gang of Four are the top four companies, namely Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, with different backgrounds, all competitive, and are all making huge investments.

When asked why Microsoft was not part of the group, Schmidt simply stated that, “They’re a well-run company, but they haven’t been able to bring state-of-the-art products into the fields we’re talking about yet.”  He added that Facebook is attempting to become the world’s communication hub and with one billion users, they’re off to a good start, while Amazon is aiming to be the world’s store, and Apple and Google are dominating in their own leagues.

When asked which company he would choose if he was to become CEO again, Schmidt stated he’d choose Apple since he used to be a board member for the company, and because that’s where all the money is.  Wouldn’t that be a story to tell?

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