Google's Eric Schmidt on Facebook Home: 'It took some guts to do it, on our part'

Plus more, from the executive chairman's appearance at the D: Dive Into Mobile event in New York.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

This morning, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt sat down with AllThingsD's Ina Fried and Liz Gannes to discuss the company's Android mobile operating system, its relationship with hardware partners, its work in developing markets and what's just around the bend, technologically speaking.

Oh, and that whole Facebook Home announcement made by the social network.

The occasion? The "D: Dive Into Mobile" event, held in New York City.

The trio's conversation took various turns; here are the highlights.

1.) There are 750 million Android phones in use globally, on 320 carriers, in 160 countries, running some 700,000 Play apps. "We'll cross a billion in the next six to nine months and we'll be nearing two billion in the next year or two," Schmidt said, adding: "Android is the primary vehicle by which people will see smartphones."

2.) The big news is not what's happening to those of us who are connected, but to the people that are not, Schmidt said. "Our goal is to reach everybody," including the bottom of the market. "Those devices today, in two years they're cheaper, in four years they are phenomenally cheaper."

3.) "A relatively good smartphone with a browser is what you need to access the world's information," Schmidt said. "Nobody uses a phone by themselves anymore," but rather a browser or interface that connects to a back-end of supercomputers that do all the heavy lifting.

3.) In a brief tangent on the privacy of connected health devices: "It's the definition of opt-in" when you take a connected pill. "It's much much cheaper, much more preventive."

4.) "The rate at which our bandwidth is increasing is significantly more than the developing world. But in the developing world, to go from no bandwidth to some bandwidth is historic."

5.) "Humans are naturally optimistic and clever." Google employees are "accused of being techno-optimists…the truth about technology is that it's relatively neutral with an empowerment bias." 

6.) On Google's position on personal privacy: "Google has a responsibility, which we take very seriously, to keep your data secure," and "You have a responsibility to keep your passwords secure, understand what people are doing on your computer, not install malware, et cetera." He said, forcefully: "We are careful when we use your information and we tell you that."


7.) On Facebook Home, the mobile venture built atop Android: "I think it's fantastic. This is what open source is about. Open source means open source. It's wonderful -- experimentation, new ideas, creativity." He added, in an attempt to address reports about a potential conflict down the road"Frankly, it took some guts to do it, on our part." 

8.) Later, when pressed about the possibility of Google blocking Facebook Home, Schmidt appeared somewhat indignant and defensive, his feathers ruffled. "The answer is no," he said dismissively. "We're phenomenally happy when people are extending Android in a number of ways. It's called open source. You can't have half open source." He said Facebook "read the rules and they followed them," and added that the company "made a very important point to make it completely applications compatible."

9.) On native apps versus web apps: "This browser versus apps debate is something that we've lived with for 15 years…with HTML5, it looks to me like we're there." He added: "I don't think you should prematurely merge these things, and we're going to continue with both for that reason."

10.) When asked about the combining of the Android, Chrome teams within Google: "You don't want to let organizational design describe product design. You want to build outstanding products. The two are not related." This is where it went wrong at Sun, Schmidt added.

11.) On Google Glass: "For me, the experience was not the screen. It's the fact that you can talk to it, and it will talk to you…for me it was a lightbulb moment that the voice recognition was good enough that you could talk to these things."

12.) "Our job is to put these platforms out there, to bring the technology forward," Schmidt said. "We don't know" what the implications are.

13.) Gannes asked Schmidt how soon it would be before wearing a device like Google Glass on your face will be considered normal. He responded, "At Google, it already is."


14.) On Motorola's place within the Google empire: "They have a new set of products, which I have seen, that are phenomenal," he said. "They're in a tough market…wait and see with this next generation of technology." When pressed for details, he said, "Think of it as 'phones plus.' "

15.) On Google's driverless car trials: "What is the great source of death in America today? It's car accidents…you realize how profoundly bad [it is to have] people driving cars versus computers driving cars."

16.) "The digitization of everything means the availability of knowledge at your fingertips to solve every known problem."

17.) On reports of tension between Google and Android partner Samsung: "The press reports about 'tension' are not correct…the value and the profits to them are very high." He added: "The Samsung relationship has turned out to be a defining one" because of that company's early bet on Google's mobile platform.

18.) On the Apple Maps kerfuffle, Schmidt said that Google told Apple that it would really like the company to use its Maps application, and they chose not to, and that Google would still like Apple to use it moving forward.

19.) On the connected home: "Android is now showing up everywhere: printers, televisions, things like that. The sort of core idea is think about peer-wise self-configuring. When a device comes into a local network, you want it to self-configure." For example, you walk into your room, it realizes that you want your text messages on your phone to show up on your TV -- or not. "We can do that now. Android is powerful enough. Almost everything we use now has a computer in it of some kind. We're never more than six inches from an integrated circuit."

20.) On the evolution of the smartphone as an object and the possibility of a smart watch: "We evolved to sort of this thin glass plate because the primary driver was sort of that big screen. The screens are getting to the point where the sort of visual density is eye-perfect. There's not a lot more we can do...Will the watch be powerful enough that you can replace your phone?" It would need to be powerful enough to speak to, like Glass, like a Dick Tracy watch, he said.

21.) Finally, on Health IT: Most conversation has been around cost structure, billing, automatizing, Schmidt said. "For people like myself, that looks like an IT problem." But "there's a much larger explosion that's going to be happening" around device monitoring: dongles, skin patches, et cetera. "The phone then becomes the staging area for real-time information, in both [directions]," he said.

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