Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

Top Google minds gaze into the future

Excerpts from an interview with Larry Page, Google's chief executive, and Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president in charge of Android and Chrome.

One of the company's recent themes is Android is going to be a platform for more than phones. You want to have it in multiple devices. What's the long-term vision for how Google services will be in different devices?

Page: We've been talking about a multiscreen world for a long time. I think you see it culminating in something that's a great experience across lots of different kinds of devices; from the watch to the TV to the laptop to the tablet to the phone.

How useful is the multiscreen world now?

Page: More and more of my time is on phones; though also it's nice to use a big screen and have something plugged in. Some of the basic things we've done like Chrome tab synchronization and the ability to access your email across devices, we take those things for granted. But if you use them 100 times a day, it's a really important thing.

Pichai: I also think we are just at the beginning stages. Today, computing mainly automates things for you. But there's an evolution from today we tell computers to do stuff for us to where computers can actually do stuff for us. For example, if I go and pick up my kids, it would be good for my car to be aware that my kids have entered the car and change the music to something that's appropriate for them.

Do you worry that the more devices we have connected to Google, there's not just a privacy question, but also something like creepiness?

Page: I think that the Internet and mobile devices in general are changing people's lives a lot. And we're feeling that. Everyone can tell that their lives are going to be affected, but we don't quite know how yet because we're not using these things. And because of that, there's a lot of uncertainty. I think we'll figure that out. And we'll get products, services and technologies that really benefit people a lot and that make their lives significantly better.

You're saying the usefulness of the products will change how people feel about them?

Page: Yeah, and we know that if we talk about things before people see them, there's a much more negative reaction. That's one of the things we learned. It's really important for people to be able to experience products. Otherwise, you fear the worst without seeing those benefits. I think that's what's happened in health care. We've decided, through regulation largely, that data is so locked up that it can't be used to benefit people very well. Right now, we don't data-mine health care data. If we did, we'd probably save 100,000 lives next year. I'm very worried that the media and governments will try to stoke the people's fears and we'll end up in a state where we could benefit a lot of people but we're not able to do that. That's the likely outcome.

What's going on with Google Plus?

Page: I think there's a lot of things going on with Google Plus. I'm a very excited user of it. It (now) works with Chromecast. That's one of the things I've been excited about. The service has been growing tremendously. People are always like, "Oh, what's going on?" But for us, we're super excited about it because it's a big service, growing continuously since we launched it at a high rate and we're making it better and better every day.

Is "social" as important to you now as it was two years ago?

Page: Yes, if anything, probably more important. We have a very excited, dedicated community. People forget we're able to make our services better by understanding your relationships, making sharing work and understanding identity. These are deep and important things for us as a company. When people ask about Google Plus, they think about it as, "I'm going to the stream." For us, Google Play reviews are part of Google Plus, too. We see all those things growing and being important for us.

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