Will search keep Google on the throne?

CEO Eric Schmidt maps out the future of search and his company, and he asks Google when he will die.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Unlike rivals Yahoo and Microsoft, Google is focused on core search and thus will be the main infrastructure provider for Web services and information going forward, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said Wednesday.

"It's obvious things are going to be more competitive in the future," he said during the company's annual press day. "This competition is healthy for end users." But "none of the other competitors is emphasizing" search.

Just as pre-Web commerce was propelled after highways were built, information services and commerce are being expanded by the growth of Web search, he said. "Search is really the unified solution to that. We're really at the beginning of this whole new phase."

"The winners will be the fastest innovators who partner most broadly," Schmidt said, noting that Google has strong partnerships with eBay and AOL.

Schmidt talked about the moment he understood the significance of Web search. "Everybody has an 'aha' moment," he said. "There is a magical moment when you type something into Google and you go, 'Wow! That's amazing. I learned something, something obscure.'"

Schmidt's 'aha' moment
Schmidt said he travels the world with Google Earth, the company's mapping program that offers satellite imagery and a fly-by navigation interface. "Google Earth is a new way to travel," he said, adding that he discovered he could climb Mount Everest "from the comfort of my office. It was my 'aha' moment. Not yours.'"

Schmidt also posed a question to Google: "How long will I live?" He wasn't happy with the answer: "age 67." Still, "this is what Google is useful for," Schmidt said. "It really does change the way you organize your life."

The expansion of search infrastructure and search-based Web commerce will only speed up now that networks are 100 times faster than they were 10 years ago, there are broadband handhelds, the "Wintel" platform is being replaced by Web services, the ad business model has been proven and growth internationally is surging, he said.

Google, meanwhile, is "willing to buy small companies, not necessarily large companies, to fulfill this technology," Schmidt said.

In the end, the users will dictate the direction of search and Internet services, he said.

"I would propose the first rule of the Internet, most humbly: People have a lot to say," he said, pointing to the popularity of user-created wikis. There will be a "transition from learned information to learning information, and curiosity will be how you establish your expertise."

In five years, Google will have built "the product I've always wanted to build--we call it 'serendipity,'" he said, adding that it will "tell me what I should be typing."

Also coming in the future: simultaneous translation in the major languages and the ability to take a picture on a mobile phone and use OCR (optical character recognition) to find out what it's a picture of, he added.

"We have literally just begun on the potential of this unification," he said.