Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal published an interesting interview with Eric Schmidt – CEO of Google and a great tech visionary. Disclosure: I am a great admirer of Eric Schmidt.
The interview comes at an interesting juncture when Android seems to be on a roll powering 200,000 devices a daily and slated to be the dominant operating system on the mobile platform. Yet, of late, the media has been critical of Google, probably taking the cue from a weak stock price. Add to that the mindshare belongs now to Facebook.
Notwithstanding the negative media reports on Google, Eric in this interview shares several new insights about where Google is headed. Some of his insights and quotes are interesting:
Asked to comment on Android being given free as compared to the fat margins made by Apple he says:
"You get a billion people doing something, there’s lots of ways to make money. Absolutely, trust me. We’ll get lots of money for it."
"In general in technology," he says, "if you own a platform that’s valuable, you can monetize it." Example: Google is obliged to share with Apple search revenue generated by iPhone users. On Android, Google gets to keep 100%.”
That difference alone, says Mr. Schmidt, is more than enough to foot the bill for Android’s continued development.
Google’s real challenge though it dominates the search business:
The real challenge is one not yet on most investors’ minds: how to preserve Google’s franchise in Web advertising, the source of almost all its profits, when "search" is outmoded.
The day is coming when the Google search box—and the activity known as Googling—no longer will be at the center of our online lives. Then what? "We’re trying to figure out what the future of search is."
Now that’s what being visionary is all about – not reacting to Wall Street but figuring out the future before Wall Street has had the chance to position you. Maybe he’s taking the cue from Andy Grove’s philosophy of Only the paranoid survive.
Google’s intriguing aspect of Search 2.0 can be summed neatly as he says:
"We know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are." Google also knows, to within a foot, where you are.
Mr. Schmidt leaves it to a listener to imagine the possibilities of this social search and what its implications could be. In fact, Google is acutely aware that we are on the cusp of a new phenomenon called “Social search” which may be powered by the Facebook phenomena.
Google the creator of targeted advertising believes that it will dominate the category raises the bar:
"The power of individual targeting—the technology will be so good it will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them."
Finally, Eric presents the most intriguing and scary possibility of the future when he says:
"I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time," he says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.
"I mean we really have to think about these things as a society," he adds. "I’m not even talking about the really terrible stuff, terrorism and access to evil things."