English
08.03.2012

Eric Schmidt: "I'll Stay Google Until I Keel Over"

Google's Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, recently sat down with futurezone to discuss the current state of Google's privacy policy. He also says "just wait" with Google+, how and why Microsoft, not Facebook is Google's main competitor, and why he's investing his money in deep sea exploration. "I'll stay Google until I keel over"

futurezone.at: How do you see Google in five or ten years from now?
We will be much better giving you the answers. If you think about it today, we give you ten links - you know we give you what we think is best. In five or ten years we will be much better answering your question. So, If you say „weather in Vienna“- today we can say the weather. But what we really want to say is „what is most interesting in Vienna?“, and it should be able to say – „you were here ten years ago, this is what you liked and what you didnt like.“ Much more personal. And as we get more information, and I mean, you have to opt-in, much more topical, much more predictive. Another example is traffic. It should be possible for us to predict a traffic jam, because we have enough information from all the different android phones.There are a lots of ways that artificial intelligence can be used to really give you the right answers. Google is in the answering-questions-business.

But you are not only in the search- and webservice-business, what about hardware?
First we were buying Motorola, my guess is, that Motorola will be just mobile phones and tablets for a very long time. You could imagine us to do other hardware, but more or likely we will accomplish this with partners. Google today is a software-company, with a very specific set of scales. Lots of maps, lots of artifical intelligence, lots of data centers. A lot of questionas – answering and prediction. That’s what we are really good at. I think the mapping stuff, Google maps, will be even more amazing. Youtube is doing incredible well. Another aspect, which we have to mention is the success of Chrome. Chrome is in the process of becoming the worlds most significant successful browser. People use Chrome because its safer, secure, faster and it’s a very good platform for cloud-computing.

 

What do you expect with Google+ - you have about 43.000 followers - , but Google+ doesn’t really take off.
It’s coming.

When and why are you convinced that it will be an success? A comscore-study last week said, that Google+ users are only on the platform for an average of 3,3 minutes a month.
It’s brand new. If you look, it grew faster than any other Google service in history. To become impatient now, after comparing us to facebook, you waited eight years and than you give us like six months? Come on. That’s not a fair comparison. Google+ is repeatedly increasing usage and engagement. And people are using it in many ways. These things are hard to do because you have to get enough people and enough activity and then they take off.

How do you see your competitors? Microsoft, Apple, Facebook Facebook seems to be the biggest competitor at the moment.
I don’t agree with that. Our premier competitor is Microsoft. If you look at search you have Microsoft Bing and Google. Microsoft does Windows and office software very well. But Microsoft has nothing successful beside Xbox. We are assuming that the Nokia phones will be good but not good enough. The Android ecosystem is so much further along, it’s so much better engineered and there are so many more choices. But our number 1 competitor is, and will remain Microsoft search. Facebook is the competitor in what sense, in maybe a tension? People who use Facebook use Google a lot. Its not a direct competitor yet, but maybe in the future.

But what happens, when Facebook integrates in Facebook search, a web search? And this will be a Bing search due to the fact that Microsoft has small shares in Facebook?
That could be possible and that would answer the question – we will still be competing with Microsoft. Everyday we worry more about Microsoft than anybody else. The industry is consolitated into a relatively small number of important platforms. There are at least four now – Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.

But many people miss the content on Google which Apple can offer, like music. As you cannot offer content, might this be a problem for your business and your future?
Of course, they are ahead, but we are working on that. But again I think, there are markets where we are the leader; text-search. We are in the process of becoming the leader in display ads. We a leader in Youtube, we are a challenger with Chrome. In music we are behind, but that’s because we started later, but we are growing very fast. And Apple does a good job. That’s called competition.

Two years ago you presented Google Voice Search at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. When will it really take off?
A lot of people say that they are beginning to use it. I find it strange myself.

Whats driving innovation today?
( Eric Schmidt takes his Google Galaxy Nexus and uses Google Voice Search and talks into the phone „What is driving innovation today?“ and shows the list of the google-hits.

Wow – Isn’t that impressive?

As I do not want to write the hits - now the answer in the words of Eric Schmidt please?
The core things on the computers have to do with big data, the ability to get a lot of information and to look at it. The Mobile phone industry, Facebook, the big data explosion is at the core of many new businesses. The other thing is the trend towards augmentation, the example I used in Barcelona were the virtual presence-robots. You send a robot to the concert and you can experience the concert yourself. That’s enabled by fast bandwidth. It’s also enabled by better imaging recognition and fast processors. A lot of those things will happen for us in the next decade and that will be one of the next big stories.

Did you change personally, since you are no longer the CEO of Google? You give the impression to be more the visionary.
Thats what I try to be. I was CEO for ten years. It’s Larrys (Page) problem now, Larry runs this very very good. Now I can network on these things and But what I primarily not so much about robot cars driving us around, but more, how does the internet evolve. Because its very important, that the internet does not get screwed up by governments, companys, policies; the internet we have developed is hugely important. I spent my time flying around and talking about this because its how I express things and people will listen.

What do you do with all your money, where do you invest it?
Into ocean geographic research because the oceans are very important for humanity. And there is a lot going on in the oceans that we do not know. We know a lot about space, we know a lot about the climate, but not too much about oceans. There is a mass distinction going on in the oceans, enormous numbers of fish and biology. I have a ship that’s been built near Hamburg which is an ocean geopgrahic research vehicle.

And will you build an under water laboratory?
The best ocean geographic stuff is if you have a ship. the new technology, fibre optics, allow you to go very deep with an amazing visual resolution, high definition cameras, great lights, infrared, etc..

When will you start with the project?
It will be started over the next few years.

That means, you will be on the ship in the future?
When Im not getting seasick

What do you do after Google?
I will stay Google forever. Until I keel over. I like Google because I believe in the power of information, so my life’s goal is to give everybody access to information. Information is very very powerful.

Since March 1st the new Google privacy-regulations are online. The Germans are not very happy with it, but you have time until March 23nd to respond to the critics. What will you do?
I’m trying to understand what the real issue is. We annouced our new privacy policy, we did a lot of work to simplify 60 privacy-policies into one. So we did that and they dont like it. Im trying to understand what the real concern is? Do you know, what the real concern is? Perhaps you can tell me?

Do the Europeans have a different meaning of privacy, do they have a privacy-illusion?
I dont know. I tend to agree with the European view on privacy. I think privacy is very important. We had to move to one privacy policy because we were under critisism to do so. We are happy with that. If you want to use Google anonymously, you can do that. You dont need to be logged in. You can use incognito-browsing on Chrome. You can go to our dashboard, you can delete information we have know about you. It works pretty well. If you are concered about privacy you can make your own decision.

 

Perhaps it has something to do with past incidents (WLAN-sniffing) and some Eric Schmidt quotes? You said in an interview on October 1st 2010 with James Bennet (The Atlantic) "We know where you are. We know where you`ve been. We can more or less know what you`re thinking about." In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC (3. December 2009) you said: "If you have something that you don`t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn`t be doing it in the first place."
But that was concerning The Patriot Act, Tha’ts the benefit of free speech. And if I am a European, I would be more concerned about The Patriot Act. Please ask another question.

I found another interesting quote: "He [ Eric Schmidt] predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be automatically entitled to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends` social media sites." ( Holman W. Jenkins Jr., Google and the Search for the Future. The Wall Street Journal) Are you really sure this will happen?
Yes. Im sure. You know why Im so sure- because it was a joke. This reporter wrote it down as a prediction. What I learned was, when I say a joke i have to say „and that was a joke.“