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Google's Schmidt sees Web access for billions more

CEO Eric Schmidt says Google has the patience and financial wherewithal to invest in products that enable information access for billions more people.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt says great things follow from big numbers.

Fresh after reporting strong third-quarter earnings yesterday, Schmidt was interviewed on stage at the 25th anniversary celebration of the MIT Media Lab today, where he offered some insight into how he views the future of Google and the Internet.

When asked about the implications of Google earning a billion dollars from mobile-ad revenue, Schmidt said "anything that is a billion dollars is good, and if it's growing, it's better."

Google CEO Eric Schmidt answering a question at the MIT Media Lab's 25th anniversary celebration.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt, answering a question at the MIT Media Lab's 25th anniversary celebration. Screen capture by Martin LaMonica/CNET

Another large figure Schmidt and his fellow Google employees are eyeing: the billions of people around the world who are starting to get access to computing devices.

There are 4 billion phones in the world, and between 800 million and 1 billion smartphones already in use. And with Moore's Law-like speed of technology development, more people will have access to a smartphone with a Web browser, connecting them to the already 2 billion people online.

This has big implications for society as a whole and global businesses, Schmidt said.

"What happens when you have a powerful browser in the hands of people who have never seen anything but a TV, perhaps in a shared model?" he asked. "We haven't heard from them yet. We don't know what they think."

Most likely, many people tapping into the Web for the first time will seek out entertainment, which is human nature, Schmidt said. But having more people with access to information forces transparency and openness in countries that don't have the same notions of free speech as the United States, he added. It also means that global brands are more important.

Google's strategy is to get more people online and more data digitized, which, on the whole, is positive for society, Schmidt said.

"Our business approach is to get them wired and not worry about it, because they are clever, and this will work," he said. "Eventually, there will be business opportunities which will be massive."