During an interview last night with Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt at the D9 Conference, questions from Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher ranged from a new approach to answering questions in search results, to Google's social media failures, and the launch of Google Offers. Here's a quick rundown of the highlights.
Replacing Links With Answers in Search Results
Sounding similar to what Bing Director Stefan Weitz has been saying for a while now, Schmidt said Google is trying to move from link-based answers to algorithmically-based answers, adding that Google wants to produce the best answer for people.
He said an IP address, combined with browsing history and the social data users give to Google, will make up for data it can't get from Facebook. Schmidt also said that Bing does a better job in a couple of narrow verticals.
The future, according to Schmidt, is SoLoMo – social, local, and mobile. However, Google's social efforts haven't amounted to anything and for years Google missed out on "the friend thing." For that, Schmidt blamed himself.
"Three years ago I wrote memos talking about this general problem. I knew that I had to do something and I failed to do it," Schmidt said. "A CEO should take responsibility. I screwed up."
Schmidt also said that Google isn't trying to duplicate Facebook or turn into a social network. Google wants to use data on social relationships to improve its products.
"Gang of Four"
There was discussion of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook as being the top four brands in the post-PC era because "they provide something you can't do otherwise" -- Google offers "all the world's information"; Apple has "beautiful products"; Amazon is the "world's largest store"; and Facebook has "every friend you've ever had, including ones you can't quite remember."
Schmidt made mention of either PayPal or Twitter being fifth or sixth on the list, and was asked why Microsoft was excluded. Schmidt said this is because “Microsoft is not driving the consumer revolution in the minds of the consumers.”
Google Offers Live Today
Google Offers, Google's new service offering discount deals of at least 50 percent off while taking a 20 percent cut from sales, launches today in Portland, Oregon and will be integrated with Google Wallet. The first business Portland-area residents can expect to find is a 70 percent discount on drinks, pastries and treats at Floyd’s Coffee Shop.
While Portland is now officially available, NYC Downtown, NYC Midtown, NYC Uptown, Oakland / East Bay, and San Francisco are still listing as "coming soon."
Business Insider has live blog coverage of Schmidt's interview.