|Natali T. Del Conte|
Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer of Google, sat in the hot seat at the keynote session for the Web 2.0 Summit on Tuesday. He was asked to explain moves such as the YouTube acquisition, the company’s employment strategy, and their “office suite,” which he does not like to call an office suite.
John Batelle, founder and chairman of Federated Media Publishing and author of “The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture,” got the rare privilege of being able to ask Schmidt whatever he wanted for a little over 30 minutes.
“So why did you buy YouTube? Was Google Video not doing well?” Batelle asked.
“Because we liked them,” Schmidt said. “Actually Google Video was doing extraordinarily well. It was growing fast but we went over and visited the YouTube group and their business was growing even faster and so we wanted to be a part of that.”
Schmidt admitted that even though YouTube has the right idea in terms of socially networking video, Google has the golden ticket for driving traffic.
When Batelle complimented Schmidt on the company’s office suite, including Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Schmidt took issue with the “office suite” moniker.
“The argument goes like this: For many people, it would be just as easy to have the computer in the cloud store the information that you use everyday. Furthermore, if you have that model, it should enable very rapid sharing so we embarked on a strategy more than a year ago to build applications that are focused on sharing and collaboration,” he said. “The sum of that is a different way of managing information and we don’t position it as an office suite. We position it as something you’d use everyday in everyday life.”
“Yes, but it is still a replacement for Office,” countered Batelle.
“We don’t see it as a replacement of Office. The focus we have is not the focus they have,” Schmidt said, referring to Microsoft. “Our focus is on casual sharing and casual collaboration.”
But Batelle was not having it. “But the benefit is that its free.”
“Well you could pay people to use your product,” said Schmidt. And that was the end of that.
Schmidt was further questioned about the company’s focus on radio, newspapers, and wikis.
“The company may appear to be chaotic but it is actually very, very coherent,” he said.
He also discussed the company’s challenge to the Patriot Act, an appropriate topic for voting day.
“We will do whatever it takes to follow both the law and the principles,” Schmidt said. “We have a system of law and we won’t win everything but we’re going to try very hard and we will follow the decision of a federal judge. There is clearly going to be somebody who tests the limits of the Patriot Act and its an important constitutional issue. If we don’t like it, we can replace the people that have made those laws.”
The Web 2.0 Summit began on Tuesday and runs through Thursday in San Francisco.