Google's new app strategy: Mobile comes first

MWC 2010: CEO Eric Schmidt says smartphone apps are number one for search giant
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor on

MWC 2010: CEO Eric Schmidt says smartphone apps are number one for search giant

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has announced that the software behemoth is prioritising app development on smartphones over desktop PCs.

"Now our programmers are doing work on mobile first," he told the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona yesterday. "Now that is in fact a change."

"Of course we'll have a desktop version, high-quality web browser version [of our software]," he added. "But we'll also have one on a high performance mobile phone on all the browsers that are available."

With the next billion users in developing countries likely to get their first taste of the internet through their phone rather than a traditional PC, Google may be hoping it can extend its internet dominance to new territories and consumers by prioritising mobile app development in this way.

The Google CEO's comments also come in recognition of the growing popularity of mobile applications - predicted to generate $6.2bn in revenue this year, according to analyst house Gartner - as well as consumers' increasing expectation that apps should provide the same functionality and experience regardless of the hardware they are accessed on.

Schmidt said the power and functionality of smartphone hardware, coupled with the rise and spread of mobile data networks is enabling a new generation of mobile apps that utilise cloud computing to build "very, very powerful interlinked systems" able to perform extremely sophisticated tasks on the fly.

"Cloud computing is more than here to stay - it becomes the basis for everything," he said.

The CEO pointed to voice input as an example of an application made possible by using large databases sitting on servers in the cloud - and now also available via a mobile phone.

google ceo eric schmidt

Google CEO Eric Schmidt
(Photo credit: Google)

"All of a sudden, voice recognition now works really, really remarkably well," he said, describing how Google's technology uses hundreds of thousands of computers to process speech in parallel and "essentially vote to come up with a better answer".

The next logical step is a so-called 'Babel Fish' phone, according to Schmidt. "Why can't I just talk on the phone to somebody who doesn't speak my language [and it translate it back to me in mine]? Well, we're not quite there - but it's coming. And it's coming because of the unique intersection of computing and communications and cloud."

Future mobile app development may see phones able to both know where their owners are - using GPS and other location placing technology - but also guess their upcoming movements, said Schmidt.

"Since the phones all know where they are - and people tend to follow the same patterns, you can imagine applications that not only know where I am but predict where I'm going," he said. "That application might make sense as long as people get the choice to turn it on or off.

"When you have all that data you can begin to use the computational characteristics that modern computer science offers to do some really phenomenal things."

Schmidt also revealed that more than 60,000 devices running Google's mobile OS Android are shipped each day - a number that has doubled in the last quarter. "And I would say we're just at the beginning," he added.

Schmidt's Mobile World Congress keynote also saw Google demo a "sneak preview" of Flash running on an Android device.

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