Monday, February 06, 2012

Google grabs Apple quality lead for possible Motorola work

Signs that Apple and Google are honoring laws barring no-poaching deals may have surfaced this weekend after new tips that Google had hired away one of Apple's veterans. VentureBeat understood that Simon Prakash, Apple's senior director for product integrity, had been hired away to work on a "secret project." He would reportedly start on Monday.

The Google role, if accurate, would have him working on a "secret project" at the company. As Prakash has been responsible for hardware quality checks on hardware at Apple, he would most likely be working either at the Google X labs or else may take responsibilities relating to Motorola should the $12.5 billion acquisition of the company go through. If at least the labs project, it could see Prakash report directly to Google co-creator Sergey Brin.

Neither side has publicly confirmed the deal. Who might replace Prakash wasn't mentioned.

With experience in computers and mobile, Prakash could have a significant impact on Google's future strategy. If in Google X, he could be involved in direct hardware projects using Android or Chrome OS. The company has never put out a completely self-developed device for sale, but he could help shape future designs from others.

Motorola's work would need regulatory approval of the merger, but if so could validate Google chairman Eric Schmidt's claims that the buyout considered hardware as much as it did patent rights. It would see Google at least somewhat contradicting its position that it would keep an "arm's length" distance from Motorola to honor partners and could see Google having say over how Motorola's phones are designed.

Apple and Google are known to have had an informal but enforced anti-poaching pact for much of the last few years of Steve Jobs' life. The step was meant both to avoid losing valuable talent but also to avoid fueling any further animosity between Apple and Google at a time when Android was getting started. Such deals are considered unfair to employees looking to maximize their job potential, however, and several Silicon Valley companies settled with the Justice Department to end the practice.