Eric Schmidt talks Apple, self-driving cars, China, and more

In a wide ranging chat with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, former Google Inc. (GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt opened up about his thoughts on technology, competition, and the world at large.

I. iOS Maps, Phones v. PCs, FRAND Abuse

Mr. Schmidt, speaking at a 92|Y interview, commented early on that he feels the four most influential tech companies are (of course) Google, Apple, Inc. (AAPL), Facebook, Inc. (FB), and, Inc. (AMZN).  Was the decision not to mention Microsoft Corp (MSFT) (which has 1.3 billion customers worldwide) an accident?  Nope, Mr. Schmidt remarks, "Deliberate."

On the topic of the iOS 6/iPhone 5 maps debacle, he reiterates, "Apple should have kept our maps. Apple decided a long time ago to do their own maps … [now they've] discovered that maps are really hard."

Why should Apple have stuck with Google Maps?  The Google executive states simply, "They’re better maps."

Eric Schmidt
Eric Schmidt @ 92|Y [Image Source: All Things D]

On the state of Android, Mr. Schmidt shares that the platform currently has 500 million handsets in the wild and should reach 1 billion by mid-2013.  He claims four times as many Android phones are activated as iPhones -- 1.3 million per day (on average).  The former CEO points out that there are now (around) one billion smartphones and six billion (total) phones (including feature phones).  He says that dwarfs the number of "traditonal" PCs (around 1.3-1.5 billion, by Microsoft's and Apple's accounting).

Google earnings
There are now 500 million Android handsets in the wild. [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]

On the patent wars with Apple and Microsoft, and the allegations that Google's subsidiary Motorola is abusing standards patents, he comments, "I can't talk about [FRAND abuse] because I don’t know the details and because it actually just gets me too upset. Patent wars are a disaster for all of us. Everyone can find prior art for everything. So the new trick is to get judges to block devices country by country. It’s bad for innovation, it’s bad for choices."

II. Schmidt Talks Apple, the Borg

Kara Swisher asks Mr. Schmidt, "You guys have vast ambitions. I think about you like the Borg. What is the end game? In the beginning you wanted to collect all the world’s information."

To that Mr. Schmidt responds, "We want to be in the center of the information revolution. The world doesn’t need more copycat products; it needs innovative products."

Despite all his company's troubles with Steve Jobs and the late Apple CEO's fiery hatred for Android, Mr. Schmidt expresses remorse at his passing.  Asked what company he would most like to work for, other than Google, he commented, "I was on Apple’s board, and I’ll always have a soft spot for them. I was very good friends and very close to Steve Jobs, and we miss him dearly. Jeff Bezos has made remarkable moves. And again, Facebook has a billion users."

Kara Swisher compared Google to the Borg. [Image Source: Comic Vine]

On his company's ongoing struggles with China, he comments the Chinese internet censorship policy is a "hellacious law … true, hardcore censorship."  He describes doing business in China as "untenable".

But overall Mr. Schmidt's outlook on the future was positive, as he imagine the possibilities of ubiquitous mobile apps and self-driving cars.  If there was one shining moment in the talk it was Ms. Swisher's Borg comment.  It sums up Google nicely -- a company driving the technology sphere into the future in so many arenas, and yet a company many fear has grown to big to be trusted.

Source: All Things D

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