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4/17/2007
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CEO Eric Schmidt Presents Google's Friendly Face At Web 2.0 Expo

The DoubleClick acquisition, Schmidt said, will benefit both Internet users in the form of more relevant ads and publishers in the form of technology to serve relevant ads.

At the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco Tuesday morning, Google CEO Eric Schmidt presented his company as everyone's friend, an enabler of communities and an amiable business partner rather than a would-be monopolist of advertising, online software, and user data.

Google's capacity for evil, or at least monopolistic dominance of the Internet, has long been a concern raised by competitors and pundits, not to mention human rights and privacy activists.

But Google is having to defend itself with renewed vigor following reports of anti-trust concerns raised by two former monopolies, AT&T and Microsoft, in the wake of Google's planned acquisition of DoubleClick.

In a public interview with John Battelle, co-chair of the Web 2.0 Expo and CEO of Federated Media Publishing, Schmidt explained his company's rationale for adding online presentation capabilities to Google Docs & Spreadsheets. "We've concluded that collaboration is the killer app for the way communities work," he said.

Schmidt denied that Google's Web-based productivity suite competed with Microsoft Office. Google Docs "does not have all the functionality, nor is it intended to have all the functionality, of Micorosoft Office," he said.

Pressed by an incredulous Battelle, Schmidt replied, "I'm sure Microsoft will have a response. They actually have a set of Web-based products they can talk about."

The DoubleClick acquisition, Schmidt said will benefit both Internet users, in the form of more relevant ads, and publishers, in the form of technology to serve relevant ads. "Advertising is really about relevance," he said.

Reminded by Battelle that Google co-founder Sergey Brin had said that it wasn't Google's style to work with a company associated with obtrusive, gaudy ads like DoubleClick, Schmidt said, "Since 2004, they've made a lot of changes to the way they operate."

Schmidt said that Google's plans to integrate DoubleClick's systems with its own were just beginning. "Advertising ... is both an art and a science and we can provide the science to the artists," he said.

Asked about anti-trust concerns raised following the disclosure of the DoubleClick deal last week, Schmidt offered a deliberate pause before responding dryly, "Microsoft? Did you say Microsoft and AT&T? What is the year?"

Challenged to reply less obliquely, Schmidt stated, "They're wrong. C'mon give me a break. It's false. Would you like a stronger answer?"

Schmidt didn't directly answer the question of whether he thinks Viacom's copyright lawsuit against YouTube is a negotiating tactic. Google, he said, depends on copyright and copyright law. "The important point here is we fully complied with the law," he said.

YouTube's popularity, Schmidt explained, is not about copyrighted content, "It's really about user-generated content." He said that YouTube's traffic went straight up after Google removed Viacom videos.

It's also about trust. Schmidt emphasized that worries about Google's nefarious plans to control the world's data and pry into business secrets and private lives were not realistic. "If we lose our advertiser or end-user support, the company is kaput," he said.

While declining to answer questions about Google's specific future areas of interest, Schmidt did say that Google wasn't planning a direct competitor to Amazon's S3 service. That may come as something of a letdown to those who have speculated that Google plans to offer an online storage service.

Schmidt did acknowledge that Google was paying close attention to the mobile and local search markets. "The biggest growth areas are clearly going to be in the mobile space," he said. "And the reason is people treat their mobile phones as extensions of their person. ... This next generation of wireless networks, 3G and 4G, will have tremendous power."

Asked about Net neutrality, Schmidt emphasized that Google supported it. "We are very concerned if Net neutrality gets broken because Net neutrality really did create the level playing field that created Google and other companies," he said. The sort of favored-nation data rates popular among telecom companies like AT&T should be a "business negotiation," not something "enshrined in law," he said.

Following Schmidt's talk, Google issued the following statement from Sam Schillace, director of engineering:

"Collaboration isn't a feature. It's why the Web actually does change everything, by letting people work together anytime no matter where they are located. We built Google Docs & Spreadsheets as a Web application to improve group collaboration, which used to be a painful and inefficient process, particularly when you're scattered across time zones and locations. We've already freed teams from the burdens of version control and attachment overload when going back and forth on word processing documents and spreadsheets, so it just made sense to add a presentations feature to the mix. After all, when you create slides, you're almost always going to share them.

"We're also announcing today the acquisition of Tonic Systems, a company based in San Francisco and Melbourne, Australia, which has some great technology for presentation creation and document conversion. Their technology and talents will be a great addition as we add presentation-sharing capabilities to Google Docs & Spreadsheets."

Back at Web 2.0, Schmidt was asked what worries him. His answer: continuing to scale as the Internet grows. "In order to win in the Internet, you have to have a scaling strategy. ... So what I worry about these days is scaling," he said.

Google's friends and competitors no doubt worry about that very thing.

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