During LeWeb in Paris this afternoon, Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt took the stage together with Loic Le Meur to discuss a wide variety of topics, including the state of local and mobile development, the state of Google Android and the role of technology in society. Talking about politics, for example, Schmidt noted that the idea of “social, local and mobile has been around for thousands of year,” but while technology can enable political movements, it won’t provide societies (like Egypt) with new leaders.
After demoing the Ice Cream Sandwich release of Android, including face unlock, people cards and some of the built-in Google+ features, Schmidt and Le Meur talked about virtually all of Google’s business areas in an office-hour like conversation that sometimes lacked focus but made up for that by covering such a broad range of topics.
Talking about Android, Schmidt argued that it’s important to remember that phones are not so much about features but about communication and being social (and argument that Microsoft would likely also make about Windows Phone, by the way). “There was a time,” Schmidt said,” where we thought phones were all about features.” With Ice Cream Sandwich, Google aims to focus on making communication easy and allowing its users to be social (centered around Google+, of course).
Governments and Internet Access
Talking about the role of governments in providing connectivity, Schmidt argued that they have to make sure that all of their citizens have wired and wireless access to the Internet. This will then, in his view, almost automatically lead to the creation of new jobs and innovation.
Looking forward, Schmidt noted that we will all soon have multiple IP addresses attached to us in some form. Computers, Schmidt said, will continue to do the things they do very well, but won’t replace human intuition and creativity.
Building Scalable Platforms
Talking to the developers in the room, Schmidt noted that, going forward, “the most successful companies will build scalable platforms that will scale amazingly fast.”
As far as startups in Europe go, Schmidt argued that the competition among major centers like Paris and Berlin is a good thing. If their local governments don’t support them, he said, they should just move to another center or, to the U.S., where “they will then not get a visa because we are idiots.”
Consolidation of Google’s Products
Asked about the recent consolidation of Google’s product lineup, Schmidt reminded the audience that Google is now focussing mostly on seven product areas, including search, ads, commerce, Chrome and others. We should not, however, think that Google isn’t still committed to innovation, but within the context of these seven major areas for Google.
Asked about Google’s advanced projects, Schmidt noted that he first thought a project like driverless cars weren’t an idea Google should be interested in. Now, however, he thinks that it’s a very useful project that Google itself may not be able to productize, but that Google can help other companies turn into products. In his view, most of the cars on the road will be driverless in our lifetime.