Google's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, has again denied that the search giant is taking on Microsoft, despite acknowledging it was increasingly looking toward businesses for future growth.
Speaking at a press event in Paris this week, Schmidt said: "We keep saying we are not doing that and no-one believes me. We don't position them as competitive -- it is a sharing paradigm," he said.
Yet, Schmidt acknowledged that providing applications and other services to business customers will be an important strategy for maintaining growth of the company.
"Small businesses and universities are likely to become a significant business for Google as [they] use our leverage in terms of sales and infrastructure," he said.
Google owes its present position to building mass-market applications -- search, most notably -- but, in the last two years, it has begun to focus on more business-targeted applications and devices, such as the Google Search Appliance, Google Mini and, more recently, Google Apps Premier Edition.
In a wide-ranging question and answer session with over 120 journalists from across Europe, Schmidt was quizzed on a range of subjects, including his reaction to the departure of the chief executive of Yahoo, Terry Semel. "Terry and I started at the same time and we got to know each other well. He really did an excellent job and I am sure Yahoo people will miss him," said Schmidt.
Semel was brought into Yahoo in 2001, following the dot-com crash, to bring some old-media expertise from his time as co-chief executive of Warner. However, Yahoo has consistently failed to keep pace with Google, despite ploughing millions into new projects and, on Monday, Semel announced his resignation.
The Google boss was asked whether he had any advice for Semel's replacement, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, but Schmidt refused to be drawn. "It would be very presumptive of me to give advice to Jerry -- he is a very smart guy."
Andrew Donoghue reported for ZDNet UK from London