Watch as Eric Schmidt Tries to Train His Foot to Stay Out of His Mouth
Speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco today was a different Eric Schmidt from the Google CEO we’re all used to–the one who likes to use kooky metaphors and muse about the future of just about any topic. Instead, Schmidt, burned by publicity and interpretations of his recent remarks on privacy, is now keeping his foot as far away from his mouth as possible–but that too in somewhat awkward fashion.
As a reminder, some highlights from recent months:
- Schmidt suggested people who don’t like Google Street View photographing their houses “can just move.”
- There was the gem: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
- Schmidt suggested young people may need to be entitled to change their names so their youthful online indiscretions can be anonymized.
- He also said a bunch of things about how computers would know what we wanted before we even thought of it.
Today Schmidt, both onstage and in a meeting with reporters at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, tiptoed around saying anything of substance. He said he’s realized that he needs to explicitly tag his offhand remarks as jokes. “I’ve learned I have to add ‘with my permission’ to every sentence,” Schmidt said, when talking about potential Google opportunities in location.
Schmidt was also exceedingly careful not to comment on Facebook, which launched a messaging product today (a product that despite all protestations seems competitive with email). He said the Facebook product looked like “a different approach, which is good.” Other than that, he stonewalled in a series of responses: “I am not the CEO of Facebook,” “I can’t speak for Mark,” “your words, not mine” and “I’d rather have you ask me a question about Google.”
Schmidt in part blamed the press for magnifying and clinging to conflict. “I think as a group you all are focused on the competition as opposed to the fact that the market’s getting larger,” he said. “We are all served by having people get online.”
By the way, the only really substantial thing Schmidt said today was that the new version of Android, code-named “Gingerbread” and due in the next few weeks, would include support for near-field communications to enable mobile payments. Only certain phones actually have near-field chips, but apparently that will include the upcoming Samsung Nexus S, which Schmidt slyly showed off with black tape to anonymize its branding.