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Google wants data in the cloud, not on the desktop

CEO says search giant is targeting the neo-network computer, not Microsoft, with all its Web-based applications.

SAN FRANCISCO--Google is targeting the neo-network computer, not Microsoft, with all the Web-based applications it is releasing, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said at the Web 2.0 Summit here Tuesday.

Contrary to popular perception, applications such as Google's Docs & Spreadsheets are not designed to compete directly with Microsoft's desktop Office applications and suite, he said in a session dubbed "a conversation."

Eric Schmidt Eric Schmidt

"We don't position it as an office suite," Schmidt said. "We position it as something you use casually...It's a different way of managing information."

Beyond enabling people to access information from any device, anywhere, Google's products are free; Microsoft's applications are stored on the desktop and are not free, he added.

Google's applications rely on the storage of data on servers in the "cloud," which was the premise of network computing, he said. The proliferation of broadband Internet connections and reliable server farms means that the mid-1990s dream of network computing--promulgated by his former employer, Sun Microsystems, and Oracle--can finally come to fruition, Schmidt said.

The network computer at that time "didn't really work," he said. "Finally, now the architecture works."

"Fundamentally, it's better to keep your money in the bank than in your pocket," Schmidt said, adding that the metaphor could be applied to keeping your software on the server.

Schmidt was asked if Google bought video-sharing site YouTube because Google Video was not successful. Even though Google Video was "doing extraordinarily well," YouTube's business "was growing even faster," he said. Google plans to keep YouTube as a separate property, Schmidt added, citing YouTube's established user base and "viral component."

The Google chief denied a rumor that Google set aside nearly $500 million of the $1.65 billion purchase price to cover copyright-related legal costs. Google is talking with the big media companies to discuss the complicated issue, he said.

Schmidt said he would like users to be able to export their search histories between different search engines. "We want to give you essentially the equivalent of number portability," he said.

Google respects the rights of its users foremost, Schmidt said. "As long as we don't do something against their interests, we should be fine," he said. "The more that we can, for example, let people move their data around...and not trap it," the better.

Google is moving aggressively into new areas where advertising can be sold via its popular auction platform, Schmidt said. "We are investing very heavily in radio," he said.