In a rare public speaking appearance, Google CEO Larry Page addressed the search giant’s business partners at the annual Zeitgeist conference in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Despite his visible discomfort speaking publicly, Page shared his excitement about Google’s previous accomplishments and plans for the future in search, social, mobile, and driverless cars.
Page on Google’s Foray into Search
Page reflected on why Google has been successful and drills it down to two points: having a user-focus and the ability to quickly determine which ventures are successful. He described his motivation to launch a search engine by sharing an experience from Stanford, where he was involved with research into ranking web pages. He found search engines at the time lacking, saying queries returned random web pages.
“We went to the people who made these search engines and said, ‘Why are you doing that?’ And they said, ‘Well, this is user error. You shouldn’t have typed university.’ We’re like, ‘but I can’t possibly be wrong… I’m just a user, right?’ And they didn’t quite understand that, and that’s how we went on to build a search engine, because we realized nobody was focused on that.” Page goes on to say, “That’s true still for very many areas in the world. I still see a lot of areas where people don’t have that user focus and I think that’s true for most of computing right now.”
This user-centric approach has obviously worked well in search, as Google’s search engine market share hovers around 65 percent, some 13 years later.
On Google+, Sharing and Personalization
On Google+, Page said, “Understanding people better, understanding what you want, and personalizing that is very, very important. We want to build a closer relationship with all of our users. We want to integrate all our products so they’re easier to use, more intuitive, and we want to make sharing on the web happen like real-life.”
Google wants to give users an amazing mobile experience, he said. Photo uploading and sharing from a mobile to Google+, with Circles, is described as a “total magical” experience that gives users control over who they’re sharing with. A recent Google+ Hangout with Will.i.am was described as “serendipitous;” a term Google has used in the past to describe the future of search, and one which also used ad nauseum by Mark Zuckerberg last week to describe the new Facebook Timeline.
Later in the presentation, Page touched on social again, predicting that the tools we use to interact online will be completely different five years from now. Google is trying to create more enjoyable and efficient experiences through Google+.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure we’re driving the next five years, and that’s our job,” he said.
On Motorola and Patent Protection
When asked if Motorola represents a new era in risk taking for Google, Page admitted that while the acquisition is significant, it won’t double the company’s market cap. It was a logical move, he said, because Motorola “went all in” on Android. He referenced Google’s YouTube acquisition and noted, “We’ve always strived to take those kinds of risks and recognize those kinds of opportunities.”
The Motorola Mobility purchase was motivated, in part, by Google’s desire to protect itself with its patents.
“There’s an element in technology and software of innovating and moving quickly and trying to do new stuff rather than using the legal system to prevent people from doing things,” Page said.
After Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt joined Page on stage, they were asked what poses the biggest threat to Google. Page shouted, “Google!” while tactfully Schmidt responded, “The problems at a company at Google’s scale are always internal at some level.”
You can watch Page and Schmidt’s full presentation below from Zeitgeist Americas 2011 on YouTube.