Google’s Eric Schmidt Live at TechCrunch Disrupt: What’s Coming Next

Google CEO Eric Schmidt is a surprise visitor to TechCrunch Disrupt, promising to talk about “what’s coming next.” Here’s what he has to say:

What we’re really doing is building an augmented version of reality. It’s really about making people happier. That to me is the opportunity that is really before us.

Three trends are accelerating (though to be honest I’m not sure I divined precisely which three trends he’s highlighting):

* Mobile, meaning smartphones. Your strategy should be mobile first. Mobile Web adoption is occuring eight times faster than the Web on the PC. We have pervasive connectivity. It’s no longer the case that your music player can be disconnected from a WiFi network. LTE (Long Term Evolution), which will bring 8-10 MB of bandwidth, is coming to many cities soon.

* Cloud computing. Example: We can now demonstrate and are about to ship products that allow you to speak in English in your phone and have it come out in another language at the other end. This is the stuff of science fiction. The fact that this can be done in a half-second to a quarter-second, which we think is too slow, is amazing. Cloud computing will be fundamentally expressed in these new services that will make your life just work.

This concept of making humans better is not a new concept–Bill Gates 15-20 years ago. Had to do all the infrastructure and AI work to make it happen.

Essential goal: We want to give you your time back.  This explosion of information is so much larger than we ever anticipated that we need help with. We do more than 2 billion searches a day.

The mobile opportunity is so large it’s breathtaking. The search traffic from Android phones more than tripled in the first half of 2010.

* Openness. He touts Android etc. vs. others’ closed platforms, unnamed of course.

We (Internet companies) fundamentally are giving people an enormous amount of power, which disrupts the power of governments and other institutions.

Imagine a future involving all of us that looks roughly like this: It’s a future where you don’t forget anything. In this future, you never get lost. It used to be fun to get lost. With technology, we will know your location down to an inch. Computers will drive our cars. It’s a bug that cars came before computers.

You can really have all the world’s information at your fingertips. And we can do it dynamically and in real time. You also can know what to pay attention to right now. You’re never lonely because your friends are always online. If you’re awake, you’re probably online, and your children definitely are. Instead of wasting time watching television, now you can waste time watching the Internet.

You’re never out of ideas–where to go, what to eat. This is a future for the average person, not the elites. Because of technology and information access, this is a future for a billion people now, 2 billion people next year, etc.

This is a future committed to doing good, to giving people more of what they want to do.

And now to questions and, one would hope, more specifics and less utopian talk:

Q: What role does search play in a world of apps and social (at least that’s how I interpreted the question)? Schmidt: Search is still and maybe more important in that world (paraphrasing).

Q: How do you plan on making search more serendipitous? Schmidt: We use a set of hundreds of signals that are scored and ranked. The more information that we have about you, the better the search result. We’d prefer that we know more about you, like your IP address.

Q: What one thing would you focus on going forward? Schmidt: Search. But moving to semantic search, where we understand the meaning of the words.

Q: What will trigger 500 million small businesses to move into the cloud? Schmidt: The right thing for any small business is not to have any computers except on people’s desktops and do everything in the cloud. We have infinite demand for Google Apps at $50 a user. Need more integration with existing databases, more languages, and workflow.

Q: When does mobile search become material for Google? Schmidt: Not now, and not soon *material.* But it is growing much faster than Web stuff. Not quite as much monetization.

Q: When will Google Me launch? Schmidt: No comment.

Q: What does Google mean when you say you want to be open? Schmidt: Easiest to describe by opposition–Apple is closed.

Q: How do you respond to charges of antitrust in Google search, in particular Universal Search? Schmidt: Those investigations are stimulated by competitors with a vested interest. He says Universal Search is fair.

Q: How has Google Instant affected your query volume? Schmidt: At the end of the day, it’s pretty much neutral to positive.

Q: How do you view Twitter as a platform and when will you buy them? Schmidt: No answer on the second part, naturally. Twitter should be able to come up with advertising and monetization that works very well.

Q: How often do you take a 20% project that was too early and revive it? Schmidt: Hard to say, because this is done bottom-up.

Q: Will Android Marketplace API open up soon so app submissions are automated? Schmidt: I’m sure the answer will be yes.

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