Le Web: Eric Schmidt and his Android buddy

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Eric Schmidt

Eric Scmidt, the executive chairman of Google kicks off the afternoon session, and he’s backing the conference theme of  “social, mobile, local” . Is it just a fad asks Loïc? No, says Schmidt. has been with us for 10,000 years. Everything is mobile first these days, that’s where all the talent is going, he suggests. Why? “Old timers like me assumed that computing would be these big boxes on desks, but it’s a service, something that can help you anywhere. ”

And as if to prove the point, Hugo Barra is up to talk about Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich Much of this has been shown before: face recognition to unlock a phone, the multitasking button, the improvements to widgets. Social is very deeply integrated with the People sec ion of the phone, allowing aggregation of people’s social network activity attached to their details, via open APIs.

“We started thinking about phones as computers, and forgot that they were communication devices,” says Schmidt. “We’ve really gone back to that.”


And now we’ve switched to an Android tablet with Ice Cream Sandwich, to show how quickly they can go from a lock screen, to taking a panoramic photo to sharing it – about four or five clicks. Also, Near Filed Communication – Android Beam – the two phones go back to back, and the web page is shared between them (looks kinda awkward, to be honest, but the audience reaction suggest that I’m not in the majority in thinking that). There’s an API for the NFC stuff, and they’re hoping to see lots of games stuff – he demos Fruit Ninja being played on one phone, and thus triggering a link to the Android Store on the other.

Schmid takes over to talk about an analytics platform for social, which they’re launching shortly. This will allow people to track the effect interactions across the social graph are having. That should be cool.
Hugo BarraIn response to questions, he starts talking politics – suggesting that the political system is going through serious struggles, with a major danger of a recession again in 2012. But then there’s a cyber world, in parallel world of mobile phones and information – and the expectations of citizens are being defined by what they can do on the web. He thinks these two worlds will merge in equilibrium that balance and improve each other. We can capture the activities of dictators from the start, preparing for their trial before it begins.

The way to be successful is to build platforms at scale. Big info dump of the standard Android activation figures. New entrepreneurs should be looking to be build platforms that scale very, very fast.

It’s been clear for years that you’ll have many IP addresses attached to you – you’ll have a lot of highly, personalised device around you. Evolution? Computers will do what they do well, and so will we. We’ll do creativity, intuition, enjoyment and entertainment, and computers will solve the needle in the haystack problem. The explosion of big data – a power law straight up – and we’ll start analysing that for predictions, for information.

Loïc asks about Schmid’s apparent interest in engaging with politics, and Schmidt brings it back to the Arab Spring. He suggests that it’s easier to start a revolution than to finish it. Deposing a leader can be easier than finding the system that will replace it. He reminds us that it took France 100 years to stabilise into a democracy after the revolution. The modern mobile consumer won’t wait that long.

Oh, and he thinks Silicon Valley needs a competitor. Entrepreneurship skews young, because those people have less to lose, and fewer family responsibilities. That draws them to cities – and that measn that several places in Europe have the chance of being that competitor city. The role of city authorities? Make sure the citizens have access to fixed and wireless broadband. The citizens will take care of the rest. Schimdt loves (in jest) laws that prevent people inventing particular products. Premature regulation is a danger. But governments shouldn’t turn the internet off – if they don’t like the image in the mirror, smashing the mirror doesn’t help. They should accept that the internet is the engine of growth for western countries – Europe is not going to return to a low wage, manufacturing economy.

He doesn’t have much tolerance for people going excuses for not launching where they are – just do it. Competition is good.
Eric SchmidtTalking of competition, Loïc asks about Facebook. Scmidt points out that in the Arab Spring, they used Facebook to get things going, Twitter to get people out, and then YouTube to record the results. Google+ is a social signal that they can use to find you better content. Last week’s changes in YouTube are built on that idea. Scmidt doesn’t know that Facebook is “beatable”. It defines one area – he thinks Google is better doing something a little different. However, he contends that Android is ahead of the iPhone is terms of price, and volume. He maintains the line that Android started before the iPhone… Loïc shies away from asking the question about the fact that it started off looking like a Blackberry.

Rather curiously, he claims that by 2012 the majority of TVs will have GoogleTv embedded in them. Really? How? When? Was this a pre-announcement announcement, or a bit of FUD?

An questioner asks what Google are doing to get apps like Flipboard onto the platform. Schmidt suggest that we’re in a transition from iOS dominating to Android, because developers will go where the numbers are. He thinks it will take six months for that transition to happen. We’ll see.

Robert Scoble askas about the lack of noise control in Google+ – Schmidt talks about algorithmic filtering, with giving advanced users some controls to tweak that.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.