Google's Schmidt: Google Now approach could go enterprise

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt tells CIOs they need to blow up their infrastructure pronto, argues Android is secure and covers a lot of turf.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

ORLANDO — Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, said that the concepts and interface behind Google Now could be applied to corporations, which are asking whether the Web card approach could apply to real work.

schmidt mug gartner

Schmidt, speaking at the Gartner Symposium ITXpo, was predictably peppered with questions about the search giant's enterprise ambitions.

The Google Now approach, which works well with consumers, could be applied to the enterprise with some artificial intelligence help scanning corporate data sets.

Schmidt said Google is experimenting with how Google Now could work within the enterprise. Schmidt said it could take the Google Now approach to calculate workflows in a corporation and look into being analytical.

"It should be possible to take that approach to any data set with current AI techniques," said Schmidt. Business analytics could be applied to an enterprise Google Now much like navigation, he added.

The theme from Schmidt was that the enterprise buying landscape will change dramatically. Schmidt said the licensing model deployed by Oracle and others won't persist. Today, there's a hybrid cloud and on-premise model, which is a second phase of leaving a licensing model behind.

"The third phase (of enterprise disruption) is driven by tablets and it looks like the majority of enterprise computing will happen on mobile devices. It broke the model. It looks to me you're going to have to dismantle existing infrastructure to work in the mobile model. It's happening right before your eyes."

If correct, enterprises will have to shed legacy infrastructure to compete. Companies will have to piggyback on the faster innovation cycle of consumer technologies such as the cloud.

For instance, Schmidt mocked current infrastructure. For instance, virtual private networks (VPNs) aren't totally secure. "It's a terrible architecture," he said.

Schmidt asked the audience for a show of hands if you're sure the Chinese aren't in your network right now. Four hands out of about 4,000 raised. When asked whether he was sure Google's network didn't have the Chinese poking around, Schmidt said he was — because Google checks every second. Schmidt also quipped that the U.S. government couldn't say the Chinese weren't poking around the network — since it's out of commission at the moment.

Among other key themes from Schmidt:

  • Don't settle for technical cul de sacs. Schmidt said companies need to beware of innovating themselves into a corner. He also said that companies need to think about fixing large problems — way bigger than what they're tackling today.
  • Embrace bottoms up management. Young technologists will always know more than management. Smart execs will use that reality to their advantage. Managers should always say to young technologists: "Tell me something new that may matter in five to 10 years."
  • Commitment to the enterprise. "Thousand of employees are working on enterprise applications," said Schmidt. Schmidt acknowledged that he didn't quite understand how sharing would be the primary feature for Google Apps and Docs.
  • Getting people out of email. Schmidt said that people love email and companies run on it. Schmidt argued that email doesn't need to be replaced by collaboration tools.
  • Google Compute Cloud is faster than the competitors. Schmidt said Google's Cloud is designed to be faster than Amazon Web Services and it is winning deals because of that. Schmidt said no matter who wins in the cloud enterprises "have to make the transition" to public infrastructure.
  • Android has the most unit volume and is a platform that's robust based on usage. Schmidt also shot down the Android fragmentation argument. "The key thing is that everyone has agreed to keep the app store compatible," said Schmidt. "When you buy an Android phone the apps are compatible."
  • What industry is most ripe for innovation? "Almost every business can become more efficient with some software developers," said Schmidt. "Any industry without software developers embedded someplace is going to lag."
  • Research on aging. Schmidt said the effort is hard core research on what causes humans to expire. Calico will take some time to play out. "Google has a fair amount of cash on its balance sheet and we can make this bet," said Schmidt. "Innovation is always risky." Schmidt said it wants to make big innovation bets on large issues. Transportation is another key area. "Transportation is a mess," said Schmidt. "It needs to be solved."
  • Education meets connectivity. Education is ripe for many more experience. Technology companies can help and there's an opportunity because of connectivity to try something new, said Schmidt. Startups will lead the way for many of these experiments.
  • Privacy and data. Schmidt said consumers will give up privacy if there's a benefit. He cited E911 and cell phones as an example of swapping location data for a greater benefit. On the NSA flap, Schmidt said there's a political debate, but American companies do have to follow the law in the U.S.
  • Data permanence has yet to be solved. Schmidt said a teenager that has been maligned shouldn't have that on a permanent Internet record. Schmidt said it would be hard to come up with a bill of rights for data permanence due to the First Amendment. Schmidt said ideally there would be an algorithm that ferrets out the truth.
  • How can we trust our data to Google given management will change over time? What happens with succession and data protection? "If Google were to have a significant data breach today it would be terrible for the company," said Schmidt. "We're always one mistake away. It's inconceivable you could materially change that." Google's culture revolves around data protection.
  • Google management plans on staying for long run. Schmidt said that succession wouldn't play into data trust. He expects that current Google management will stay in place for a long time. "These (succession) scenarios are not going to apply to Google," said Schmidt.
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