Here are some highlights from the keynotes during the afternoon sessions.
Eric Schmit (CEO Google) John Battelle
“Why did you buy youtube?” Schmit’s response video is a big deal and we want some of it. Google figured out how to make money from search results and now they believe they have the algorithms needed to make money from video. I am not sure what that means. They did aquire a company not long ago that recognizes people in pictures. Perhaps they plan on applying that to video? Google has the servers to process that kind of data.
Schmit stated that Google tries to respect end users first rather than fall prey to business models that might hurt their users. He felt that that was they way to keep your users from hating you in the way that some people have grown to loathe Microsoft. He was applauded for Google’s refusal to turn over data to the defense department, however he also stated that Google is subject to the laws of the United States and that they would comply current laws and with any orders given by a federal judge. I am a negative person in general but after he said that it made me wonder if they had been ordered by some judge to turn something over and the public was not ever made aware of it. Lovely times we live in when stuff like that is done in the dark.
“Don’t bet against the Internet,” was one of Schmit’s more interesting quotes. He said that the Internet is about sharing and businesses that don’t share won’t do well. A lot of the conference has been about being open with APIs and data but not for altruistic reasons. Everyone who talked about openness did so in the context of how it made or is going to make them more money. Not the best motivation, but it is nice to know that what we have believed at COSL for years is also sustainable.
Schmit compared service based software with packaged software by saying your money works better for you in the bank than in your pocket. I’m not sure the analogy works, but he is smarter than me. His point was that service based software has to work 24/7. If it doesn’t 1 million users start blogging about it or emailing you about it. Packaged software leaves the consumer all alone to deal with the problem by themselves or to wait for a patch that may be months in coming. He said that it is “fundamentally better” to get a data center to manage your applications and data. However, he also said that Google’s online applications are not meant to replace and office sweet but are instead intended for casual users. “We run the company around solving needs for end users.” I don’t think the audience believed him though. Most seemed to lean towards the belief that the Google tools sweet is meant to compete against Office whether they will ever admit it is questionable.
Someone asked Schmit how they retain employees. He said, “People don’t work for money they work for impact.” I agree. At COSL we work for impact. Most everyone there could make more somewhere else. However, at Google I’m sure that becoming a gazillionare via stock options probably helps retention quite a bit.
Joichi Ito flew in from Japan to show the audience World of Warcraft for ten minutes. He said games are becoming a normal part of our physical world and said, “we are not strange.” I disagree. Everyone at this conference is strange. These are not normal people. They are all CTO or CEO of something – even if there are only three employees, or else they are a VC looking to fund a company whose CEO is also the janitor.
Six apart showed off vox which is a system for sharing stuff you are already creating. Sounded like ozmozr until he showed the demo. We do similar things, but are different. They developed a platform called “Open Media Profile” that integrates GData, Open Search, and MediaRSS. White paper is at developers.sixapart.com.
Jack Ma from China was interviewed by John Hileman and talked about alibaba.com. Yahoo gave him a billion dollars for 40% of his company and then turned Yahoo China over to him. Two quotes from Jack, “I want to influence others not have others influence me.” Also, Hileman, “will you be invading the US markets anytime soon?” Jack, “what do you mean invading? I come to help.” Jack’s company is killing eBay in China. There was a rumor that eBay bought Skype in response to what Jack is doing with his version of eBay in China, but that “theory” was dispelled by Niklas Zennstrom, Skype CEO and founder in the evening conversation.
The other conversation was between Barry Diller() and Arthur Sulzberger Jr (NYTimes) and facilitated by John Battelle. I don’t’ think they have a lot of love for each other. Barry stated that there are a very limited number of people who can write in a way that appeals to a mass audience and Sulzberger of course agreed. Sulzberger slipped and said that there are 550k subscribers behind the NYTimes paywall. He tried to rephrase by saying if it was a newspaper it would be their third largest behind the NYTimes and Boston Globe.