Google CEO Imagines Era Of Mobile Supercomputers

The future, as Eric Schmidt describes it, belongs to smart phones and data centers.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

October 27, 2009

4 Min Read

Before some 900 technology executives at the Utah Technology Council's Hall of Fame event in Salt Lake City on Friday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt described the future sought by Google and other tech companies: 100-megabit broadband and a supercomputer in every pocket.

"A billion people on the planet are carrying supercomputers in their hands," Schmidt said in a conversation with Fusion-io CEO David Bradford. "Now you think of them as mobile phones, but that's not what they really are. They're video cameras. They're GPS devices. They're powerful computers. They have powerful screens. They can do many many different things, and oh, by the way, you can talk on them too. That's what the mobile phone of today is."

And in the next few years, he said, you'll see things you can't even imagine now.

As examples of what's being done with Android mobile phones, Schmidt cited an application that can take pictures of barcodes, identify the corresponding product, and compare prices online. He also mentioned an application that can take a picture of a menu in a foreign language and translate it.

"The creepiest one of all, take a picture of person -- somebody built a demonstration -- and we can tell you who that person is," he said, adding, "By the way, that's obviously useful if you're a policeman."

The back-end of these yet-to-be imagined services is cloud computing. "It's a bigger phenomena than, for example, the PC industry, and probably the next big wave of computing," Schmidt said, a point he made more emphatically at a press conference with Utah's two Senators, Orin Hatch and Bob Bennett.

"Even the most brutal incumbent, if I can use that as a description of Microsoft, is moving in that direction," he said.

And the future that Schmidt envisions is bringing major changes to our society, through social computing.

"We're going from a model where the information we had was pretty highly controlled by centralized media operatives to a world where most of our information will come from our friends, from our peers, from user-generated content," he said. "These changes are profound in the society of America, in the social life and all the ways we live."

High-speed broadband, Schmidt asserted at the press conference, would accelerate these changes. When you get to 100 megabit broadband, he said, "all of the [media] distinctions go away." Television, radio, the phone system, and the Internet become one.

That kind of connectivity, he continued, is very disruptive, very consumer-focused, and will create many new businesses.

Schmidt's presence in Utah was a consequence of the desire of the state's political and business leaders to see some of these new businesses develop in Utah. As former CEO of Utah-based Novell, Schmidt has longstanding ties to the state and its leaders. Much of the discussion at the press conference, and in Schmidt's discussion with Bradford, focused on what Utah can do to match the success of California's Silicon Valley as an incubator and home for businesses.

Schmidt said that Utah appeared to be on the cusp of achieving its goal, noting "Utah is already by every ranking the best state to do business in." It just needs a greater concentration of technical talent, he suggested. "Most of the data centers should be here because you have a very low cost of energy here," he said, pointing to the NSA's plan to build a massive $1.6 billion data center at Utah's Camp Williams.

Finally, Schmidt also provided some interesting insight into Google's ambitious, and occasionally ridiculed, motto, "Don't be evil."

Responding to a question from an Oracle employee about whether the motto is alive and well, Schmidt confirmed it is still important to the company and said that it's valuable because it provides an avenue for employees to say, "No."

Missed the InformationWeek 500 Conference? See the best of the event, including a keynote by federal CIO Vivek Kundra and panels with top C-level executives, on the theme of Navigating The Boardroom: What Do You Bring To The Table? Find out more.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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