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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.

Thomas Claburn

May 27, 2005

4 Min Read

InformationWeek: How do you reconcile Google's mission to make the world's information more available and more accessible with the emerging markets that Google as a global company has to do business in that have a different view what information should be available.

Schmidt: Give me an example.

InformationWeek: China, for example.

Schmidt: Well, you have to abide by the law. We're clearly going to be a significant player in China in some form. And we obviously have to work with the appropriate legal authorities in terms of the law. You can't violate the law. To put it another way, are you proposing an alternative?

InformationWeek: I don't think it's a question that has an easy answer. But obviously when you have internal discussions about 'do no evil' there are some who would argue that censorship is evil. That's one perspective and there are counter-arguments against it.

Schmidt: Well, I will tell you that we have to follow the law in every country we operate in. It is a requirement.

InformationWeek: What about security? Have you been paying as much attention to security as, say Microsoft—you can debate whether or not they've been successful, but they've poured a lot of resources into it.

Schmidt: More people to a bad architecture does not necessarily make a more secure system. Why don't you define security so I can answer your question better?

InformationWeek: I suppose it's an issue of making the technology transparent enough that people can deploy it with confidence.

Schmidt: Transparency is not necessarily the only way you achieve security. For example, part of the encryption algorithms are not typically made available to the open source community, because you don't want people discovering flaws in the encryption. Maybe I should answer a slightly different question by saying that so far this has not been an issue. We have huge teams that work on privacy, security, attacks, index spam, ad spam, all that. You as customer of our blue box here get the benefit of all of that. I don't think it ever goes away. I think you always have that concern. I think Microsoft has learned that the hard way. In many cases, the best way to have security is by simplifying things. Complexity can create security problems because complexity adds paths that you can't model.

InformationWeek: Is there anything you can talk about as part of a broader enterprise strategy?

Schmidt: I'm actually happy with the evolution of this [the Google Search Appliance and the Google Mini]. If you think about it, we brought Dave [Girouard] in a little more than a year ago. The business is growing very quickly. We've added all these new features. It makes sense now to just keep adding more Google to the Google-in-a-box. So a reasonable expectation is that more and more of what's on Google will be available in the blue box. And that'll keep them busy for years. Because when you do that inside of a company, you have a higher level of security and privacy and all that stuff. ... Imagine the evolution of this product line. It gets very interesting. Without pre-announcing anything, it seems like a no-brainer. You have lots of these things sitting around inside all these guys' networks. Just think of the strategic value of that to Google.

InformationWeek: What concerns do you hear most from your enterprise customers?

Schmidt: In my experience, it's always the two hundred different data formats and security and access to that information. The ones I talk to are always saying I have the following weird thirty things. Will you handle them? ...The real barrier to entry is these guys think this [requires] some one-year procurement cycle.

Girouard: We have customer, the National Park Service, and they told this story. The guy said, 'We wanted to put [the Google appliance] on all 36 Web sites of the National Park Service. We created a plan. It was about a two-month plan. The box showed up. We turned it on and the next day it was working with better search that we'd had and we couldn't figure out what to do with the other 58 days.' And that's the kind of thing—people have an expectation that these things are going to be painful. We love that joy, the simplicity when these things just work.

Schmidt: I think people are confused. They don't quite model Google in the enterprise.

InformationWeek: It seems like you're saying Google is contrary to traditional IT.

Schmidt: It's not contrary but it's different. We delight as a company in doing everything differently. ...In his group, we have the wildest meetings, because it's basically all these people who want to change IT.

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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