Liz Gannes

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Larry Page on Tour: Our Big Bets Do Work Out

Google CEO Larry Page is on a public speaking rampage this week, with at least three different appearances after having previously given a total of one press interview and a smattering of quarterly earnings calls in his first year of CEO.

Talking to Google partners at the Zeitgeist event in London yesterday, Page’s big message was that he is focusing Google while also making big bets. The day before, Page announced Google would donate New York office space to the CornellNYC Tech university project and appeared on the Charlie Rose Show.

“I’m trying to give you a very positive world view,” he said at the Zeitgeist event. “Anything you can imagine is probably doable; you just have to imagine it and work on it.”

If the world could get a little better organized and more productive — something Google is actively working on — “I think we could easily double human progress and the rate at which we’re developing,” Page said.

Google’s current big bets are autonomous cars and augmented reality glasses, which Page was wearing on stage at Zeitgeist. (Page goofily warned the audience to call them Google Glass — singular — because the device sits in front of one eye, not both.)

Those projects might seem ridiculously far-reaching, but Page said Google’s previous big bets that are now reality include Android, Chrome, YouTube and language translations.

For instance, YouTube might have seemed like a crazy big acquisition back in 2006, but it has now doubled revenue every year for four years. (That’s a new stat, confirms our resident media hack extraordinaire Peter Kafka.)

Page didn’t specify what YouTube’s actual revenue is, but he noted that doubling anything “starts to add up pretty quickly, no matter where you start from.”

Meanwhile, Google Translate now translates between each of 64 languages instantly and for free. Last week, the Chrome browser had more usage than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for the first time ever, according to one measure.

As for Android, “I think it’s pretty clear that everyone in the world is going to have a mobile device that’s connected to the Internet,” Page said.

In a rare moment of personal relatability, Page explained part of his rationale for developing self-driving cars. “I have young children — I’m sure many of you do as well. Think about your children — by the time they’re old enough to drive, there’s no reason we can’t have technology that helps teach them.”

As an aside: Though Page might not get out much, he can be trusted to go on anecdote autopilot. Have you heard the one about how Search Plus Your World helps him disambiguate various people named Ben Smith? Page used it yet again, in both the Charlie Rose interview and at Zeitgeist.

Here’s the Zeitgeist talk, which was titled “Beyond Today”:

And here’s The Charlie Rose Show:

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle