Google boss shows off iPhone

Apple board member and Google chief executive Eric Schmidt claims the iPhone will be the perfect mobile platform for web-based applications

Apple's much-vaunted iPhone received a ringing endorsement from the chief executive of Google, Eric Schmidt, on Tuesday, after he claimed that the handset was a perfect platform for the search specialist's hosted applications.

Speaking at an event in Paris on Tuesday, Schmidt was questioned on whether, as Google's boss and an Apple board member, he had any insights into future collaboration between the two companies. "What you are really asking is to see my iPhone," he quipped before producing a handset from his pocket. "iPhone is a powerful new device and is going to be particularly good for the apps that Google is building. You should expect other announcements from the two companies over time," he said.

The iPhone, which will be launched in the US on 29 June, but which will not be available in the UK until later this year, fully incorporates Google's search and mapping services. Users can make phone calls directly from Google Maps.

Key to Google's belief in the potential of the iPhone is Apple's decision to integrate support for the Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) web-development technique.

Effectively the native language of interactive web technologies — known as Web 2.0 — Ajax combines the best elements of software as a service including thin-client computing, web standards and platform independence.

Enterprises could create applications in Ajax and run them on any device they choose, including the iPhone, without any need for the time-consuming coding normally required to port applications onto different devices.

Schmidt made no attempt to hide his belief that mobile handsets will be increasingly important to Google, and he even used some ring-tone sound effects in his speech to illustrate the point. "It is a certainty that we will get more people online and more quickly. I travel a lot and the metaphor I hear is a mobile phone. There are 2.4 billion mobiles in use today — it took 20 years to get to one billion and four years to get to two billion," he said.

In a speech and question-and-answer session that lasted more than an hour, Schmidt discussed a variety of topics, including how the search giant intends to prevent further criticisms of its approach to user privacy. "If people don't trust Google then we've got a problem, because they are literally one click away from switching," he said.

Schmidt also discussed future developments and said that cross-language translation was one of the most important technologies the company is developing. "Of all the advances we are making, then cross-language translation is the most interesting," he said. "There are a million books in the Alexandra library in Egypt and only one percent has been translated out of their original language."

The next big activity for the search specialist will be to add new primary content sources to the web — such as books and documents. For example, typing Suez Canal into Google will bring information that dates to when it originally opened in 1869, said Schmidt.