SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt on Tuesday defended his company as a great innovator, contradicting an unflattering portrait drawn by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs before he died last month.
Schmidt told reporters that he is still "very sad and recovering from the sense of loss" from Jobs' Oct. 5 death. He declined to specifically address Jobs' irate criticism of Google in a biography that drew upon dozens of interviews with the book's author, Walter Isaacson.
The biography was released Oct. 24. In it, Jobs contends Internet search leader Google Inc. stole from Apple Inc.'s iPhone to build many of the features in Google's Android software for rival phones. Jobs also belittled the quality of Android and Google's other non-search products, which he described in vulgar terms.
"I decided not to comment on comments that are written in the book after his death. I don't think it's right," Schmidt said, describing Jobs as a "fantastic human being" who he "dearly" misses.
Jobs died at 56 after a battle with cancer. Schmidt served on Apple's board from 2006 to 2009 but quit as Google and Apple clashed in the mobile market with their competing Android and iPhone products.
"Most people would agree that Google is a great innovator, and I would also point out that the Android efforts started before the iPhone efforts. And that's all I have to say," Schmidt said.
The Android software evolved from a startup launched in 2003 by former Apple engineer Andy Rubin. Google bought Android in 2005 for an undisclosed amount and then spent several years working on the mobile software system with Rubin still overseeing the project. During that time, Apple unveiled the touch-screen iPhone in June 2007. The first Android-powered phone debuted more than a year later.
While he still was serving on Apple's board, Schmidt also was Google's CEO — a job he surrendered in April after a decade-long stint. Google co-founder Larry Page is now CEO while Schmidt handles the company's government relations and helps negotiate acquisitions.
Schmidt has been meeting with senior government and business officials, including South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Monday, during his three-day trip here.
Marveling at South Korea's Internet infrastructure, where 90 percent of households enjoy broadband access, Schmidt said he also told Lee that Seoul needs to trim down its Internet regulations.
"It is my view and, I think, Google's view that the regulation of Internet in Korea could be more open, more modern," he said. "Other countries had more liberal policies in some cases about the Internet, and they should examine them."
Schmidt said he did not go into specifics with Lee. He also did not elaborate during the press conference.
Since 2009, Google has banned users from South Korea from posting videos on YouTube in protest of Seoul's policy mandating the use of real names for sign-ups on websites. The South Korean government stands by that policy, saying it improves accountability.
Because of Google's ban, many South Korean users fake their nationalities on YouTube to upload videos. They are not blocked from viewing video, even if they are registered as users from South Korea.
"I think that the next thing for you all as a country to think about is more than hardware and infrastructure, but really about openness," Schmidt said.
Schmidt's visit to South Korea is his first since 2007, according to Google.
AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke in San Francisco contributed to this story.