Apple, the iPhone maker, said on Monday that Eric E Schmidt, Google's chief executive, was stepping down from its board. The move comes as the Federal Trade Commission conducts investigations into whether the two companies violated antitrust laws by sharing common board members.
The resignation does not mean an end to the investigation. Richard Feinstein, director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition, in a statement on Monday said the agency would continue to probe the remaining overlap between the companies' board. At the same time he commended the companies for acknowledging that sharing of directors does throw up competitive issues.
The two companies still share one board member, Arthur Levinson, the chairman of Genetech.
According to analysts, Schmidt's resignation comes as an admission that Apple and Google had sought to earlier play down the issue and that the companies are now directly in competition on the crucial race to develop the next generation of software for mobile phones and personal computers.
The numero uno internet search company in the US and the iPhone maker are now in competition on several fronts including operating systems and the fast-growing smartphone market. The two had had been seen to be allies against Microsoft's dominating presence.
Schmidt was named an Apple director in 2006. He has been recusing himself from discussions that focus on Apple's iPhone, though it is not clear when that began. Google's Android operating system is in use in rival smartphones.