At Le Web in Paris, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Product Management spoke. The video of the entire interview is published on YouTube.
In the hour-long interview, Schmidt said “Android is ahead of the iPhone now,” he says, based on “unit volume, price is lower, more vendors, it’s free.”
At about 39 minutes in he makes this startling prediction: “By the summer of 2012, the majority of the televisions you see will have Google TV embedded in it. A similar strategy to what we did with Android. The price is free from Google, so you are only paying for the television.”
When he was asked about why the search engine hadn’t acquired any French companies, Schmidt jokingly commented on stage that Google was now buying around one company day. Schmidt told to TechCrunch that Google was actually acquiring around one company per week. “But why do you never announce them?” she asked him. “We don’t have to,” he said.
Schmidt replied, to a question from a audience member, “If Google were a country which country would it be?”
“We’re not a country,”Schmidt said, bringing up the fact that Google did not have nuclear weapons, nor a police force and that it was subject to the laws of most actual countries, a fact made most obvious in Google’s dealings with China.
Despite not being a country, Google does have values, Schmidt emphasized, revolving around freedom of speech and transparency. When the Chinese government wanted to censor Google search results a couple years ago, Google management leaned on those values and eventually took its Chinese outpost to Hong Kong.
“If we were to take our values to a country,” Schmidt said, “We’d value personal privacy and personal expression, but a lot of public debate and discussion.”
Google plans to add filtering mechanisms to Google+ — “Noise control” will soon be added to the social site, and “we have a team figuring out how to do it right now,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt argued that Google is in a good position to filter content for social network users, as essentially it’s a “ranking company.” He said in his view the filtering should be based on algorithms, which would promote certain content above others.
“For the average person this filtering would be seamless,” Schmidt said. “But more technically sophisticated people would be able to manage their own filters.”
Schmidt also spoke about how Google benefits from the information people share over the Google+ network. “For instance, we can use the information to better select YouTube videos for users,” he said.
Schmidt, further said that the majority of TVs will have Google TV embedded by the summer of 2012, although the firm has no plans to buy a TV hardware provider.
Schmidt argued that Silicon Valley needs to have more competitors on the world stage.
Schmidt said he considered a number of European cities to be eligible rivals for the California tech hub. Schmidt named Paris specifically, although this may well have been because Le Web took place in the French capital.
“Today’s entrepreneurs tend to break out young, they are risk taking, they are less family oriented, and these kinds of people prefer cities,” Schmidt said. “Also the diversity that cities offer tends to produce stronger organizations.”
Schmidt said the role of governments in creating the next Silicon Valley should be to ensure all citizens have access to fixed and wireless broadband. “Then the government should let the citizens do everything else,” he said.
Schmidt also told entrepreneurs attending the event that he thinks his country’s authorities are “idiots” for having such strict visa regulations that deprives the U.S. of innovative ideas.
“You can’t move to the U.S. because we are idiots and we won’t give you a visa,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt also gave advice to government leaders, “Whatever you do, don’t turn off the Internet. “The role of government is to make sure that citizens have access to fixed and wireless broadband,” he went on, “If you have fixed and wireless broadband the citizens will take care of the rest.
Later in the talk, Mayer was asked about her new role by an audience member, “So what makes a great Product Manager?” Mayer responded that a great Product Manager basically hires great people which means filtering out the less than great.
Mayer said that she asks potential job candidates (who are mostly computer scientists who have passed technical interview requirements ) personal questions to filter for qualities like enthusiasm, creativity and vision. Questions that reveal what delights a potential candidate like, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen in last six months?” show what a candidate is exposed to and influenced by, Mayer explained.
Other than pre-emptive hiring practices, knowing your limitations and listening to your team (and user concerns) are key to Product Management success according to Mayer, “You don’t know all the answers, but have to work with people who do.”
Here is the video recording of “Le Web 2011 Eric Schmidt & Loic Le Meur”: