Google CEO Schmidt wings it in remarks here

April 17, 2006


Where's Eric? That was the question buzzing at the Economic Club event at the Chicago Hilton and Towers where Google CEO Eric Schmidt was due to speak.

Schmidt's plane was delayed. He arrived 80 minutes late, missing the VIP reception and starting his remarks 20 minutes behind schedule. None of Chicago's corporate and tech industry movers and shakers seemed to mind.

Schmidt proved well worth the wait. He delivered a wide-ranging talk that delighted the audience. In 60 minutes, Schmidt described the impact of technology, the nature of Google, globalization, the future of advertising and the promise of today's youth.

Before Google's August 2004 IPO, Schmidt wore a T-shirt to a tech industry conference with the words "Quiet period," on the front, "Can't answer questions" on the back. At the Economic Club, Schmidt wore a tie and was forthright and candid, but in a decidedly Googlesque manner.

Miles seeks a stock tip

Abbott CEO Miles White jokingly asked, "If I buy the stock at $410 per share, will it be worth 10 times that?"

Laughed Schmidt with a wry smile and a CEO's savvy, "I'm not going to answer."

Schmidt knows Google can be visionary and irreverent, but must play by the legal rules.

Schmidt says Google was once like a college dorm. He was careful not to add too many constraints. "We don't have to have a dress code, but people do have to wear clothes," Schmidt says.

He talked openly of working with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin saying, "It is delightful."

He describes Page and Brin as "absolutely brilliant" and "repeating every single behavior pattern of any of the technologists who set out to change the world." Schmidt lightheartedly sees his role as throwing cold water on their visions.

"It's a good model," he adds.

Schmidt paid tribute to tomorrow's leaders, earning rousing applause saying: "This generation of young people are going to do very well in our world. Our country is in very, very good hands with this generation coming out of graduate school."

On Chinese intervention and government regulation, Schmidt was circumspect but upbeat. "One of the most important things to remember is that governments have prisons, guns and nuclear weapons," Schmidt joked.

He praised American society for its checks and balances, while describing Google's willingness to follow Chinese regulation as requiring considerable deliberation. "We have no choice but to follow the rules," Schmidt says.

Schmidt is optimistic about technology. He sees mobile devices and information access expanding rapidly. "We are just at the beginning of getting everybody online with these amazing and powerful devices," Schmidt says.

He predicts expansion of Wi-Max in the next 24 months, and when the service arrives in Chicago, he'll have his cell phone tell him that he's in Chicago, it's lunchtime, the pizza he likes is on the left, the hamburger place is on the right, and he had a hamburger yesterday.

He imagines a less hierarchal society empowered by technology. "Is it possible to run the world using all the people and all the information?" Schmidt muses. "You could ask people about public policy questions."

Schmidt says experts are already studying the consensus of online stock market forums, and determining they are better predictors than individual experts.

Schmidt sees technology-driven change as inevitable. "It is essentially unstoppable," he says. "However overwhelmed you may feel about all the information that floats around, imagine five years from now when it is 10 times more."

The only question unanswered is where is Chicago's version of Eric Schmidt? That's a question worth Googling.

York students win Titan

York High School students Mike Gianetto, Nik Maksimovic, Dan Parmenter and Renjl Thobias won Junior Achievement's Chicago Titan Competition.

Titan is an online business-building contest.

"They had to make marketing, product management, operational, R&D and capital investment decisions to ensure their virtual company was profitable," says Junior Achievement's Samantha Kim Morris. The team was coached by Jim Borel.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.


 ©2006 Marion Consulting Partners