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Interview: Google CEO Eric Schmidt Talks Business Technology

The strategy involves putting more of Google's Web site capabilities into low-cost appliances for the workplace.

InformationWeek: Is Wal-Mart an apt comparison? Is Google the Wal-Mart of the information economy?

Schmidt: Wal-Mart means good and bad things to people.

InformationWeek: It's a loaded question.

Schmidt: Yes. We're certainly the low-cost, high-volume supplier in the distribution market. That allows us to do things the other people can't. So in that sense, I think the analogy is apt.

InformationWeek: It seems that Google is helping to change the adoption pattern for software. There used to be more of a separation between enterprise and consumer software.

Schmidt: It seems to be getting integrated. I agree with that..

InformationWeek: Is there a point at which the mission for Google needs to grow beyond simply finding the world's information? Look at a company like ChoicePoint. They're a search engine, in some sense. Is that a business you...

Schmidt: I disagree with the premise. Look at what people do on the Net today. They search and they communicate. We're in both businesses. Do you do anything besides searching and communicating on the Net?

InformationWeek: No generally, although there are things I'd like to do. I'd like to be able to do analysis better.

Schmidt: What would be an example of analysis?

InformationWeek: Quick correlation of financial figures, for instance. It's something I could do on my own, but it would be very time consuming.

Schmidt: I will admit that is a specialized function. And let's assume for purposes of argument that Google's not going to pursue that. That's fine. That's the third category: specialized. The people who are busy building complicated workflow dynamics in Visual Basic, it's a specialized market. That's not the market that we're in. And there's nothing wrong with that. There's a lot room for that kind of specialization. Let me give you an example. There are legal search engines that understand the law at a semantic level that's required. There are health search engines that do the same thing. That's not something we're going to do. It's too specialized. It's too small a market. It goes back to this Wal-Martization...whatever word you want to use. Wal-Mart is not in charge of every store. But it establishes a baseline by which other stores are judged as specialists. Just to use the analogy further, Wal-Mart has forced other stores to specialize. You either go to Wal-Mart or its ilk, or you go to a specialty store. And each has different functions.

InformationWeek: You talked before about Google's advantage in terms of scale. Do you perceive some sort of advantage you have in terms of your ability to use open source technologies to form what some people describe as an Internet operating system, or to use the Adaptive Path designation, AJAX [Asynchronous JavaScript and XML]?

Schmidt: Which is a very controversial term.

InformationWeek: How do you see that issue?

Schmidt: There are too many visual images tied up in those terms, Internet operating system, everybody thinks we're talking about Netscape, and so forth. I just don't respond to those questions. Those scenarios may or may not occur. What we will say is that we're busy making our products more useful, more extensible, more end-user focused. So the evolution of Gmail, the evolution of search...I think it's up to you and others to speculate about what's going on. That's not how we think. We don't sit there and say, 'Wait! We want to build an Internet operating system! Would you like to join me?' That conversation does not occur.

InformationWeek: As you said during today's Gartner Symposium, five years hence you want to say you'd been able to out innovate people. And I think that people outside the company like to imagine that there's some sort of grand strategic vision that's driving everything.

Schmidt: [laughs] They've obviously not visited Google. We delight in the lack of such strategy. We're very careful to say we're not trying to build one thing. We're trying to innovate in all these interesting spaces. Every innovation is end-user tested and as they become more and more widely adopted, we figure out interesting things to do with them. These teams show off all day when we do product reviews and I say just don't talk to me about long-term strategy. I'm not interested. I want to know why is your product not shipping until next week. And then after this thing is released, tell me what you're going to do about it.

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