Lauren Goode

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Schmidt-Storm Alert: The Google Chairman Didn’t Like Your Question

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt stopped by CES today, and sat down with CNET’s Molly Wood for a discussion of the “Next Big Thing” in tech, with a focus on connectivity between devices.

Schmidt is known for his candid (and sometimes odd) remarks, and today’s event didn’t disappoint.

“Google TV’s doing well,” he said to Wood, when asked about the company’s Internet TV efforts (an assessment with which Logitech’s CEO might disagree). Schmidt and Wood talked about the handful of electronics makers announcing Google TV plans this week, and Schmidt said a “whole bunch” of additional partners are expected later this year.

Schmidt then touted Google Music, and said that Google CEO Larry Page is leading the effort to standardize the user interface throughout Google’s properties.

But when asked about Microsoft as a competitor, Schmidt dismissed that company’s efforts. “Microsoft is trapped in an architectural problem they may not get through. Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said, feigning chagrin.

Apple, Schmidt said, has done very well, and said, as a former board member, he’s proud of that fact. But he still emphasized Google’s openness compared to Apple’s controlled system. Schmidt said Google is seeing 700,000 Android activations a day, totaling more than 200 million Android phones in the world. “Just do a little math with the numbers I just told you, and Android is on a billion-unit plan.”

In terms of Google’s core strategy for mobile, Schmidt said Google’s plan is to get everybody using its Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, and stressed, “We absolutely allow our partners to change the interface, as long as they don’t change user compatibility.”

Regarding the early success of the Kindle Fire — and how the device skirts the Google Android marketplace — Schmidt said, “Kindle Fire has also done well, but they chose — and they did so legitimately — they chose it not to be compatible with Android guidelines and the Marketplace. So it comes with some limitations; on the other hand, it comes with a very low price point.” He noted that, as with the original Kindle, Amazon seems to be taking a books-first strategy.

Later on in the event, Wood asked Schmidt what he thought the most important part of the tech ecosystem is — services, hardware or software.

Schmidt seemed slightly flustered, answering, “It’s all of them,” before going on to suggest, “I’ll answer another question for you, which is, what was the most surprising thing in 2011?”

That got a big laugh from the audience.

But Schmidt paid no mind. He just forged full steam ahead to say that the increasing focus on the cloud platform model means everyone’s a winner; he also said the “secret” in computing in these platforms is to make them “as open as possible.”


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