February 29, 2012

Eric Schmidt at Mobile World Congress 2012

I made it a point to attend the keynote yesterday given by Eric Schmidt of Google. I expected it to be good and I’m really happy I went because it was excellent! He didn’t spend much time on Google products but rather he used most of his time to speak about the grand scheme of things and that made a huge difference for me.

Example of Google’s thinking: there are 1B smartphones in the world, there are 2B people online, yet we’re 7B so the digital revolution hasn’t arrived. We are still very much the elite.

His challenge to us – “imagine how much better the web would be with an additional 5B people”. I can imagine how this kind of thinking animates discussions in meetings at Google; I would love to be a fly on the wall!

From there he focused his talk on two points:

  • The elite – us, and what the next 20 years will be like,
  • The rest of the people – and what we need to be thinking about.

The elite – what to have on our radar 20 yrs out

Fiber to home will be a reality; something along the lines of 300mb/s to 500mb/s with the technology of today as a steady stream right into my home. The cloud and its little sister big data will become more important than ever since access and computing power will no longer be an issue. Bandwidth like this breaks barriers imposed by the speed we get today. For example, at those rates the distinction between live TV, radio, or HDTV is no longer relevant - this is all just bits. It will make technology just be there so we won’t notice it anymore.

The rest of the people

To get more people online two things are to be worked on:

  • Access costs – People in emerging countries are paying huge premiums to get online. It’s difficult to understand countries where the buying power of the citizens is roughly 10-30x less than in Canada but they pay significantly more to have access to the internet. It doesn’t compute.
  • Smartphones – This is the new computer. It’s expensive now but it will get much cheaper. By Moore’s law we can expect to have $70 android smartphones on the market within 18 to 24 months.

Those two factors combined are set to make a world of difference for those regions of the world not as lucky as us. Those communities are set to get a different level of services because of this access. I can attest that while sitting in sessions about mobile health, emerging countries are really truly creative in their ways to enabling access to health care. By supporting affordable connectivity and smartphones (their equivalent of our computers) they will get a lot of mileage out of this.

More importantly

Creativity, Imagination and Passion are in every human being wherever they are. We must work at getting everyone the opportunity to get connected and participate - it will be good for all of us.

So for Google anything driving more connected, more people online is good. It’s good even if it’s Facebook coming up with their mobile web initiative which flies in the face of android apps. They compete with Facebook and ultimately they win if Facebook wins because the pie just gets bigger.

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