Today in Apple history: Apple frenemy Google goes public

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Relations between Apple and Google started strong, but quickly deteriorated.
Photo: Apple/Google logos

August 19: Today in Apple history: With Google IPO, an Apple frenemy goes public August 19, 2004: Google floats its initial public offering on the stock market. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin turn into instant billionaires as the Google IPO cements the company’s status as a tech giant.

Relations between Google and Apple are good at the time, with Steve Jobs serving as a mentor to the company’s two young founders, and Google’s Eric Schmidt soon to join Apple’s board of directors. However, the peace won’t last long.

The Google IPO: Birth of a major rivalry

Looking back at Google’s war with Apple, what strikes me are the similarities to the Microsoft-versus-Apple feud of the 1980s and ’90s.

In both cases, the companies started off as friends. The heads of Cupertino’s eventual foes at first deeply admired Jobs and Apple. Later, both Microsoft and Google eventually took on Apple directly with a rival product (Windows for Microsoft, Android for Google). In both cases, that product proved vastly inferior initially. However, both gained ground due to openness and the products’ ability to be used by multiple hardware-makers.

Google would become Jobs’ final adversary. During his long career, the Apple maverick always found some big (usually design-challenged) establishment villain to fight. That is certainly the way Jobs defined Google, as recorded in Walter Isaacson’s biography of him. Jobs grouped Google with IBM and Microsoft as a “force for evil” instead of innovation.

Apple vs. Google

Today, relations between Apple and Google seem somewhat better, with much of the legal animosity between the two having cooled. Still, the battle over mobile operating systems, mapping software and, recently, AI technology continues.

Nonetheless, the successful Google IPO — in which 22 million shares opened at $85 and ended the day at $100.34 — became a landmark in the history of tech. And Apple history, too.

Also today in Apple history

August 19, 1985: Apple had a falling out with “how to” book publishers after deciding not to release MacBASIC, its version of the programming language for the Macintosh.

The software had been in development since 1982, with various betas released. But Apple ditched it at the last minute — upsetting publishers who already finished books on the topic.

“We feel they’ve led us down the garden path, but there’s nothing we can do,” an editorial director of publisher Osborne/McGraw-Hill said.

August 19, 1996: Microsoft announced the opening of a Silicon Valley lab focused on developing Internet Explorer 2.0 and 3.0 for the Macintosh. Pundits hailed it as yet another piece of evidence that the war between the two sides was over.

Also on August 19, 1996: Apple unveils the G3 chip (Cupertino’s name for its PowerPC 750 chip). Advertised as vastly superior to Intel’s Pentium II processor, the new chip most notably powered the breakthrough iMac G3.

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