Google's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, was elected to the board of directors of Apple Computer, August 29th 2006. Speculation about Google getting into the operating system business have been flying around for a long time now.
Despite using a Googlized version of Linux in certain areas of their business, Google insist they are not interested in branching out into this area and producing a commercial or open source OS product. But with Schmidt's entry on the already impressive roster of names on Apple's board, the debate on Google and Apple's joint future heats up.
It could be that Apple have some kind of inside information about Google's future plans which are credible enough for the old analogy, keep your friends close and your enemies even closer, to be good advice. Google are certainly anti-Microsoft enough and innovative enough, with bright young people working for them to be in many ways the new Apple and on some level therefore a threat especially should they decide to openly develop a UNIX based OS with proprietary elements bolted on top - like Mac OS X.
It could also be that Goggle don't necessarily see themselves as completely building an OS from the ground up but something analogous to a Google Mac OS X hybrid; trimmed down in some ways but feature packed enough in others to run common day to day applications like spread sheets and web browsers that the majority of people currently use Windows for - but not so bulky that it can't be easily run on next generation palm top and PDA style devices with greater battery life and output requirements.
A more slim line OS based on the Darwin underpinnings of Mac OS X would certainly be a compelling solution for smaller hand held devices. The cost of developing such a product is certainly not beyond Google's considerable R & D budget, but a little help from Apple on an interface design and ease of use point of view would certainly go a long way towards convincing early adopters, investors and application developers to support the platform.
If developers could compile one application that works on both Mac OS X and Google OS, with interoperability between the two platforms, Windows and Microsoft's Live products would be free to roam in the gaming industry, while Apple and Google made major in-roads into the traditionally Windows dominated world of office and business productivity.
One thing is for sure, Steve Jobs doesn't work with people who like standing still. Innovation and genuinely improved technology are Apple hallmarks, despite their all too public mistakes and failures in the past. What ever comes of Schmidt's role at Apple you can be sure if it involves further participation by Google the company, as opposed to simply one of it's employees - albeit a senior one, the company who stand to loose the most are Microsoft and only time will tell what they are planning by way of counter measures.