In an interview with John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Expo today, the Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced that a presentation application that is part of the Google Docs and Spreadsheets is forthcoming, completing the basic "Office" suite.
"We don't think it's a competitor to Microsoft Office," Schmidt said. "It's casual and sharing, and a better fit to how people use the Web. My guess is many companies in the audience are building products like this or other variants of this using the emerging architecture."
Battelle challenged Schmidt on the notion that a free Google alternative to Microsoft Office, even not as full featured, isn't a threat to the Microsoft company. Schmidt continued to maintain that Microsoft is building applications for the Web and that the shift to online applications is a testament to the Web 2.0. See Google's announcement and Techmeme discussion.
Regarding the planned DoubleClick acquisition, Schmidt first explained that Google has four major thrusts as a company:
- Building supercomputers to run operations
- End user solutions--how end users will use information
- The way Google is run and makes decisions--the Google culture
The planned DoubleClick acquisition is just part of Google's strategy to provide a complete advertising platform, Schmidt said. "Advertising is an art and a science. We can provide the science to the artists," he stated artfully.
Regarding Microsoft and AT&T complaining about Google/DoubleClick and bringing up anti-trust issues, Schmidt said, "They are wrong. Give me a break. It is false." He reiterated previous statements, that advertising is a trillion dollar business and DoubleClick is less than a percent of that total, and that users have many choices. The people complaining were involved in the DoubleClick acquisition reviews, but lost out to Google, he stated.
Battelle as a customer of Google and DoubleClick said he was worried about Google now having too much information about his business, Federated Media. Schmidt responded, "You aren't forced to use either product, and if you became unhappy you are not locked in. It makes no sense for us to get you to that point. These are issues we are going to work out....We need your business and you as a partner," he explained. Google could keep the targeting information DoubleClick has separate from what Google's systems has, or create it as an opt out feature, he added. "If we lose our end user or advertiser support, the company is kaput," he stated in CEO speak.
Regarding Viacom's copyright against Google/YouTube, Schmidt said that Viacom is using the suit as a negotiating tactic. "The important point is that we fully complied with the law [taking down 100,000 Viacom videos] and YouTube traffic went straight up ," he said. Google is bringing out a copyright protection tool, Claim Your Content, that will rule out the issues Viacom brought up, Schmidt said.
Schmidt also said that Google would not do something like Amazon's S3 storage service. He talked about the current Web as an emergent platform, with players such as Google, Ebay, Amazon and Yahoo building powerful applications on the platform, and said statesman-like that no single company will dominate.
Schmidt shared two areas of great interest to Google's business--mobile applications and ad services that use the targeting available in mobile platforms, and the local space, taking more advantage of the local content inherent in the Web and mining it for targeted advertising.
"We are just as the beginning of getting at the information kept in small groups on these platforms," he said.
Another core theme for Google is scaling--the technology platform, staffing, global, training, cash flow and other dimensions.
On the issue of who owns the data, Schmidt one again pledged that Google would never trap users' data and would allow people to take their information out of Google and use it elsewhere. "Technically these systems exist because end users choose to adopt them," he said. The company is working on data portability technology, he said.
All in all a perfectly diplomatic and politically astute performance by the Google CEO, who is learning how to wield the company's increasing power with a velvet hammer.