A scrolling list of search queries, followed by a tour around the world courtesy of Google Earth, set the stage for Friday evening's keynote by Google co-founder and president Larry Page at the International Consumer Electronics Show. Riding in on Stanley, a robotic car (which won the Darpa Challenge, driving itself over more than one hundred miles of desert) the boyishly engaging Page joked that he was unveiling Google Fast Food before getting down to business.
So, what's ahead for Google? Well, despite the rumor mill, it's not a Google PC. It's Google Pack, a free download from pack.google.com. Users are frustrated by having lots of unnecessary software, Page told the audience, describing how he recently installed a printer with software that took up 400 MB of disk space. Google hopes Google Pack will help simplify PC software, packaging a range of desktop tools including Google Desktop, Google Toolbar, Google Earth, Norton AntiVirus, Adobe Reader 7, the Picasa photo organizer, and Firefox. "This makes having the right software on the computer as easy as going to the Google home page," Page said.
A Forrester Research analyst said that Google Pack is a broadside fired against Microsoft, and could result in software makers lining up to be included in future versions, giving Google additional clout.
Next up: the announcement of the Google Video store, designed to let anyone sell video, from the largest studios to the smallest indies, and be in charge of the price of their offerings, whether they're downloadable or rentable. Some 1,000 videos are online so far, from cartoon classics like "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" to NBA games that will be downloadable 24 hours after broadcast. Google is partnering with CBS, which will make premium content including "Survivor," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigations," and "Amazing Race," available for $1.99 each.
With Google Video, Apple Computer's iTunes is the competition.
Page shared the stage with Robin Williams. The least dirty joke Williams made was to tell Page he sounds like Mr. Rogers. NBA star Kenny Smith also put in an appearance.
Page sounded the theme of openness throughout the speech. He focused on the idea of applying the techniques of the Internet to the consumer electronics world, so that devices can connect to each other seamlessly. Page noted that no two digital cameras can exchange photos with each other. He said open standards, not individual vendors, should govern tools for device interoperability.
"The Internet was based on truly open standards, maximally flexible, and no gatekeepers in the process. That's why we have the Web today and things like Google," Page said.