Schmidt Talks On Staying In China, GBuy & More

Conde Nast Portfolio, a new business magazine out next year, landed a nice coup of having Eric Schmidt speak yesterday at its launch party (Schmidt's also apparently set to be one of the first profiles in the new magazine). The video of the interview is online here, covering mostly stuff you've already heard Schmidt say before in other interviews (the LA Times had one last week) over the past years. But here are some things worth highlighting to me.

What would be the one do over for him? He says if Google had done any one particular thing three months earlier, it would have been better.

China was an example of this. In hindsight, he wishes Google had gotten a Chinese government approved version going sooner. "I don't think we would have changed the decision, but I think earlier, the better." He didn't say exactly why. My assumption would be that Google would be stronger in China compared to Baidu, but also that he would say they would have been serving people in China better for a longer period.

Was Google cofounder really suggesting last week that Google was having second thoughts when he said:

"Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense," Brin said.

No -- it was either a nuanced comment, a misquoted one and there was also a whole part of what he said missing, Schmidt said. The missing part Sergey had said was, he explained, was that Google had decided to go ahead with what it considered the lesser of two evils, serving people even though it had to do censorship.

There's more of the how Google operates stuff, the 20 percent time (for engineers -- still not others, apparently), the 70-20-10 time allocation of work time, and the idea of not trying to tell people what to do, for fear of stifling creativity. Instead, Google suggests what are company priorities and hopes employees agree because they, too, want to work on what's important for the company.

He talks about Google doing ads on cell phones in Japan and says they'll come to Europe this summer and to the US within the next 12 months.

GBuy? That's the press name, not Google's name, and "It's not like PayPal at all." He says its designed to help advertisers have their customers buy things more quickly than through other mechanisms. We'll see. If PayPal means sending money between two people, it probably won't be. If PayPal means an alternative to buying with a credit card (or having a credit card account as a merchant), then I think GBuy will be very much like PayPal. And it operates this way already on Google Base. For more, see Google GBuy Launch Later This Month To Challenge PayPal?. And hang in there. Schmidt said it's coming soon.

Will Google do its own hardware? "It's much better to have a partner," and "It's much better to be in the software business," he said. The economics are better, he explained.

Biggest competition? Yahoo and Microsoft are both strong and good competitors, but Yahoo is the "primary competitor."

Is Google too powerful, especially given statements he made years ago relating to Microsoft that could be applied to Google today. There are a number of other choices consumers could go to, he said -- "and we know this."

In other words, Google knows that it could potentially lose customers at any time, so it will self-police itself. Same thing he told me back in 2002 in my Google: Can The Marcia Brady Of Search Stay Sweet? article:

"We have very poor lock in. Microsoft has very high lock in," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt, when we spoke at Google's offices last month. "The switchover cost for you to move to one of our competitors is none. As long as the switchover costs are so low, we run scared. Everyday I wonder if there are very smart people at Berkeley coming up with a new algorithm," Schmidt adds -- but in a way that clearly suggests that he wants Google to run scared, in order to keep the company smart and honest.

Although to update things, Google has much better lock-in these days, given Google's many portal features. People are storing email, web analytics data, photos and spreadsheets to name only few things they may not wish to abandon, not to mention kicking the Google Habit can be hard and people aren't likely to do it unless Google gets really bad, as I've written.

As for having knocked Microsoft when he was at Sun for releasing weak products and using customers as guinea pigs, how does he respond to accusations that Google does the same? He says they have a two to three month product cycle now. To be fair, the endless betas Google used to do have gotten better.

During Q&A, Chris Anderson of Wired asks about the impact AdSense has on fueling spam across the web -- search spam, comment spam, trackback spam and so on. Schmidt responds to say Google looks had at preventing click fraud, not really answering the question.

ClickZ also has coverage of his talk in Google's Schmidt at Conde Nast Lunch Today and Reuters looks at the GBuy comments in Google tests Web buying system, says unlike PayPal.

Need more on Schmidt talking Google? See our Google , Google: Employees and Google: Revenues categories of Search Topics for archived articles going back for years, if you are a Search Engine Watch member.