September 21, 1999: A little startup called Google comes out of beta, with the launch of a website that will let the general public easily search the internet for information.
Two decades after its launch, Google rules internet search and services. Its growing line of products like smartphones and speakers probably don’t make Cupertino’s C-Suite shake. But Android, Google’s popular mobile operating system, poses a legitimate challenge to Apple’s iOS.
Google launch: Birth of an animal frenemy
While the Android-versus-iOS rivalry fueled high-profile legal clashes over the years, Apple’s history with Google is more complex than some think. For starters, Google’s founding algorithm, PageRank — which rated search results based on “hyperlink” citations — built upon the hyperlinked dream of former Apple employee and HyperCard creator Bill Atkinson, who worked on the original Mac.
More notably, Steve Jobs acted as a mentor to Google’s two young founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In fact, when the duo was asked to pick a first Google CEO to act as “adult supervision,” Jobs was the only person on their shortlist.
As the CEO of both Apple and Pixar Animation Studios, Jobs didn’t take the role. However, it’s fascinating to consider that this was once on the table. Google CEO Eric Schmidt later joined Apple’s board of directors — proof positive of the closeness of the two companies.
Apple vs. Google
Ultimately, the two companies’ falling out came with the debut of Google’s Android operating system. Unsurprisingly, Jobs saw this as a betrayal, since Schmidt served on Apple’s board during the development of iOS. At this point, Jobs mentioned his “thermonuclear war” on Google and threatened to sue the search company into oblivion.
(As a fun bonus, check out this video of a late-1999 Google team meeting to give you an idea of just how far the company has come.)