Steve Jobs threatened 'war' as Google tried to poach Safari engineers for nascent browser team

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2014
Google may have sparked the Silicon Valley anti-poaching scandal when the company infuriated Steve Jobs by attempting to lure members of Apple's Safari team to work on Google's then-nascent browser effort, according to internal emails revealed in new court filings.

Email from Sergey Brin


Jobs was "very agitated" when he heard of Google's recruiting efforts, Google co-founder Sergey Brin wrote to members of the search giant's executive management group in early February 2005. An agreement not to recruit from one another was in place less than one month later, court documents obtained by PandoDaily show.

"I told him we were not building a browser and that to my knowledge we were not systematically going after the Safari team in particular," Brin wrote following a phone call from Jobs before revealing an internal browser project a few sentences later: "I did not mention we may release an enhanced version [of Mozilla Firefox] but I am not sure we are going to yet," he said.

Former Google engineering chief Alan Eustace and former Google staffing director Arnnon Geshuri followed up, telling Brin that the company had in fact been actively recruiting at least three members of the Safari team. Eustace said that he had been after one of the engineers, whose name was redacted from the documents, for months because that developer was "absolutely one of the best in the world at browser technology."

Email from Allan Eustace


Brin received another "irate call" from Jobs a few days later, and revealed Jobs's threat in a followup email:

"Basically, he said 'if you hire a single one of these people [from the Safari team] that means war,'" Brin wrote. He then went on to suggest that Google temporarily stop recruiting from Apple's browser team, just nine days before the first mention of the anti-poaching agreement between the two companies.

The pact expanded from there, eventually covering nearly thirty companies ranging from Silicon Valley firms like Apple and Genentech to British media giant NTL and advertising agency Ogilvy. Following a settlement with the Department of Justice, the companies involved are now facing a class action lawsuit alleging that they conspired to drive down wages. That suit is set to go to trial in May.

«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 47
    This might be silly, ad it might be everything that is wrong with tech "fans" today but I love this "wars" and power struggles between this companies. I like to thing that is comparable to what soccer fans feel about their teams. I don't know.
  • Reply 2 of 47
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,129member
    Who knew, Safari had one of the best in the world at browser technology. No wonder Google went with WebKit, monkey see monkey do.
  • Reply 3 of 47
    pembrokepembroke Posts: 228member
    It wasn't conspiring to keep wages down. If top Safari engineers went to some company making fishing rods where they earned more money I don't believe Jobs would have raged. It's top engineers taking trade secrets to a competitor who wants to undermine your sales that makes one rage.
  • Reply 4 of 47
    pembrokepembroke Posts: 228member
    Besides, When you're earning 10 bucks an hour, driving down wages is understandably fretful. But when you're earning 75 bucks an hour, it doesn't quite have the same weight of outrage.
  • Reply 5 of 47
    sessamoidsessamoid Posts: 182member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pembroke View Post



    Besides, When you're earning 10 bucks an hour, driving down wages is understandably fretful. But when you're earning 75 bucks an hour, it doesn't quite have the same weight of outrage.

    I suspect that the people Google was interested in poaching would be making far more than a mere $75/hr by at least several multiples. Apple, along other big companies, may have broken the law here, but I seriously doubt they cared much at all about "keeping wages down". Apple probably viewed it as a trade secret issue, but primarily they probably didn't want the disruption that would come from losing key people.

  • Reply 6 of 47
    lightknightlightknight Posts: 2,312member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pembroke View Post



    Besides, When you're earning 10 bucks an hour, driving down wages is understandably fretful. But when you're earning 75 bucks an hour, it doesn't quite have the same weight of outrage.

    I'm far from being paid that, but I beg to disagree. If your value to the company is 200 bucks an hour and they pay you 75, you have higher weight of outrage than one that is paid 10 and has a value of 11.

  • Reply 7 of 47
    lightknightlightknight Posts: 2,312member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sessamoid View Post

     

    I suspect that the people Google was interested in poaching would be making far more than a mere $75/hr by at least several multiples. Apple, along other big companies, may have broken the law here, but I seriously doubt they cared much at all about "keeping wages down". Apple probably viewed it as a trade secret issue, but primarily they probably didn't want the disruption that would come from losing key people.


    Agreed, but this is exactly the reason why the DoJ is after them.

     

    Yes, it would have been disruptive. Yes, it brings security/trade secret issues.

     

    No, you can't start doing that kind of things, because it's one of the strengths of capitalism, the very doctrine that enabled those giants to be giants in the first place...

  • Reply 8 of 47

    We love free market, except when it gets in our way of making profit and exploiting talent at the lowest possible cost.

    This is going to drive up the cost of engineers in the Silicon Valley, but before they all rejoice they should realize that it's going to bring offshoring back on the front burner...

  • Reply 9 of 47
    karmadavekarmadave Posts: 368member
    Non-compete agreements are illegal under US Antitrust Laws. Normally, such agreements are used to keep prices high or divide territories. I can't remember when companies colluded to 'fix' the price of labor. Whether and how the courts will rule on this will set the tone for years to come, in Silicon Valley. While I suspect Steve Jobs was mostly concerned with loosing talented engineers and not trade secrets or keeping salary costs down, it's the effects of these that will be argued by the lawyers.
  • Reply 10 of 47
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,029member

    First, and this has happen in the past, and long before this happen, if you want to slow a competitor down hirer their best and brightest and offer then ungodly money to make them leave, it not about what the person is worth but what it is worth not to have them working for the competitor. No company want to be in a pay escalation war to try and keep good people. So I so not believe companies where trying to keep wages down, but keep them form skyrocketing because of the business tactic. 

     

    Notice how Google lied again to Apple by saying they were not making a browser. Google is had been practicing lying for awhile now. Also notice how they said the people can not respond to a google posting but someone who they already hired gave them a list of safari engineers and they were actively going after them.

     

    Here you go Steve who obviously recommend Larry to be on their board since he knew the advertising was key to the success or mobile devices and the how time Google was just looking to steal what they were doing.

  • Reply 11 of 47
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,503member
    The interesting CC: Bill Campbell.

    In short, Sergey was CC'ing Campbell to act as an intermediary because the guys doesn't have the balls nor principles to respect someone who gave mentoring advice when he was nothing but a pissant student at Stanford.
  • Reply 12 of 47

    I imagine, he would have done something big to punish all the copycats in his lifetime if he was alive today plus innovate as always! 

  • Reply 13 of 47
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,681member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by karmadave View Post



    Non-compete agreements are illegal under US Antitrust Laws. Normally, such agreements are used to keep prices high or divide territories. I can't remember when companies colluded to 'fix' the price of labor. Whether and how the courts will rule on this will set the tone for years to come, in Silicon Valley. While I suspect Steve Jobs was mostly concerned with loosing talented engineers and not trade secrets or keeping salary costs down, it's the effects of these that will be argued by the lawyers.

    It was a conspiracy to reduce someone's pay, or potential pay. Jobs had two options.

     

    1) shout at Google and engineer a cartel.

    2) Offer much more money to the engineers who were being targeted. If they were that good they were worth it. After all companies are often bought for millions, with the talent attached, often for the talent.

  • Reply 14 of 47
    sudonymsudonym Posts: 233member

    It is good for Apple to have these anti-poaching agreements.  If someone ever works for Apple, they should not be allowed to take their knowledge and skills someplace else and compete with them.  That wouldn't be fair.

  • Reply 15 of 47
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,681member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

     

    First, and this has happen in the past, and long before this happen, if you want to slow a competitor down hirer their best and brightest and offer then ungodly money to make them leave, it not about what the person is worth but what it is worth not to have them working for the competitor. No company want to be in a pay escalation war to try and keep good people. So I so not believe companies where trying to keep wages down, but keep them form skyrocketing because of the business tactic. 


     

    Thats a distinction without a difference.

  • Reply 16 of 47
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,681member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SudoNym View Post

     

    It is good for Apple to have these anti-poaching agreements.  If someone ever works for Apple, they should not be allowed to take their knowledge and skills someplace else and compete with them.  That wouldn't be fair.


    Jesus wept. Are you saying that to work for Apple you cant work anywhere else again, that you are a slave for life? What about the other way, should Apple not hire Google engineers, or people who work on Maps elsewhere. Or health? 

     

    Everybody learns something at companies. You cant sell the IP but you can sell yourself.

  • Reply 17 of 47
    sudonymsudonym Posts: 233member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pembroke View Post



    It wasn't conspiring to keep wages down. If top Safari engineers went to some company making fishing rods where they earned more money I don't believe Jobs would have raged. It's top engineers taking trade secrets to a competitor who wants to undermine your sales that makes one rage.

    Exactly.  Just as long a you never work in consumer electronics ever again, there will be no problems.  If you want to work in consumer electronics, you need to stay with Apple.  Simple.

  • Reply 18 of 47
    adonissmuadonissmu Posts: 1,774member

    Apple is wrong here but so is google. Its against the law to interfere with a business contract. Google was actively trying to do just that. 

  • Reply 19 of 47
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    sudonym wrote: »
    Exactly.  Just as long a you never work in consumer electronics ever again, there will be no problems.  If you want to work in consumer electronics, you need to stay with Apple.  Simple.
    That's ridiculous.
  • Reply 20 of 47
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,681member
    Notice that the defenders of the cartel don't think Apple should have paid engineers their true value but nobody blinks when managers or executives are hired for millions. The best technical people in technical companies - the top 1% of the top 5% who get offered jobs in Apple - should be paid as much as some execs at least.
Sign In or Register to comment.