Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt spoke at the Big tent conference in New Delhi today. He was in conversation with The Guardian‘s editor Alan Rusbridger, and the Google chairman spoke on issues such as privacy, mobile and why he preferred the iPad over the iPad mini.
Here are some excerpts from their conversation:
On Google Reader: Since the whole Internet has been whining and complaining and debating as to why Google killed Reader, it was inevitable that Schmidt would be asked about this.
His reply, “I loved it”, and he added that it was with a ‘heavy heart’ that they killed Google Reader. At this point Alan Rusbridger, quoted Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol, stating, Each man kills the one he loves.
Schmidt confirmed that Google Reader’s demise is an example of spring cleaning and the company’s ‘priorities’ are different.
Is Chrome and Android going to be one giant entity now that Sundar Pichai, the head of Chrome is also heading Android? Schmidt said,”No, we don’t make the decision based on who’s heading the service.” Will this be enough to put a rest to all those conspiracy theories floating online? Hardly.
On his visit to North Korea: The Google Chairman joked that he went there to play some basketball which drew laughs from the audience. But on a more serious note, he said, “North Korea has no internet connectivity, it is last closed country in the world. My goal was to convince them to turn on data services as they have that infrastructure.”
Schmidt added, “Internet was built for everyone, including the citizens of North Korea. The quickest way to open up growth in North Korea is access to the Internet.”
At the end, he did admit that he wasn’t sure if they (the North Koreans) would let him in again.
Why no Nexus devices come to India: He didn’t elaborate too much here but said that Google would be working to get these devices to India soon. Will the next Google phone, the so-called Motorola X ever hit Indian stores? Let’s keep praying for that.
On rumours that he would be quitting Google as he sold off his shares in the company: Schmidt replied that he will never quit Google. He was merely diversifying investment. And no, he doesn’t plan on taking a government job.
When is Google Now coming to iPhone: Google Now, the voice based app of Google Search is definitely the future for the search giant. Larry Page mentioned it in his blogpost when he wrote about Sundar Pichai becoming the head of Android and the biggest question for a lot of people is: when is the app coming to iOS?
Schmidt replied wittily, “You should ask that question to Apple.” He added that Apple has to approve apps in the app store. Should we take that as a hint that Google Now app could be out soon? Schmidt also spoke about how intuitive Google Now is and how the algorithms for it will get better with time.
On the future of search: When asked about this, the Google chairman said, “In the long term, we want to see computers as more of your personal assistants, your personal memory.”
On Internet issues in India: According to Schmidt the solution to this lies in fibre-optic cables. “You need to bury them everywhere,” said Schmidt, “if you want an Internet revolution.”
“Internet in India feels like it was in 1994 in America, ” he said adding that, the “telecomm industry is under-capitalised in India.” Schmidt also said that, India is under-penetrated as far as broadband Internet is concerned.
On Privacy and Google: This was clearly one topic where Google’s role was also questioned. Schmidt said that loss of privacy was a real concern and that misuse of information by governments was troubling. However he seemed to skirt the question on Google’s own dubious role as far as user privacy was concerned.
Schmidt also said that, ”Google will always allow for anonymous search. If users want to keep their identity hidden, we will let them do so.”
On the mobile future: Schmidt spoke about mobile apps and how they will get more powerful. He added that the future was definitely mobile and that advertising, (a key source of Google’s revenue) would have to be streamlined for mobile gadgets.
It was here that Schmidt mentioned both Google Glass and the Apple watch and how mobile advertising will have to take such devices into account. While Google Glass is getting its fair share of publicity thanks to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, the Apple watch remains a secret except for the occasional leaks.
On his personal choices in gadgets and social media: Towards the end, Alan Rusbridger asked Schmidt about his personal choices on devices. Schmidt confirmed he was a BlackBerry user and he liked the keyboard of the device. On the iPad and the iPad mini (Schmidt said he has both), the Google chairman said he preferred the iPad, and the mini was too small.
For Facebook he said he wasn’t sure what it was transitioning into.
India vs China: No talk is complete without this question. He said, that the math favours India in the long run.