Exclusive: Google CEO unleashed
Earlier this week at the Google Zeitgeist conference, the company’s chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said there was a divergence between his sector and the rest of the economy. While high-tech firms are currently receiving new investments, rolling out new products, and hiring new workers, the broader economy is at a standstill. “The damage that was done by the recession was much more severe than people acknowledge,” Schmidt said.
As the head of one of Silicon Valley’s most profitable companies and an ally of President Obama, Schmidt defended the White House from the charge that it is anti-business. He said recent events like the financial crisis and the BP oil spill showcased the need for government regulation of the private sector.
That said, the Google chief argued his own industry “should be as unregulated as possible,” given the pace of change and the plurality of options available to consumers.
He’s also pushing for an overhaul of America’s visa system and described Arizona’s controversial new immigration law as “nearly racist.” He said the guiding principle for the U.S. visa policy should be to let all smart people stay in the country. He added that the cap on H-1B visas for educated workers was “the stupidest thing we’ve ever done.”
Schmidt congratulated Facebook for their success and dismissed the idea that the two were fierce rivals, noting that Facebook users visit Google more frequently than non-users. He also praised Apple, in particular the iPhone and iPad, for demonstrating that “purpose-built applications really do work.” Schmidt said Google incorporated that lesson into its Android operating system.
Regarding his own business plans, Schmidt is excited about Google TV, the company’s effort to bring the power of the internet to television programming. When asked if he saw a parallel between this project and the online music stores that crippled record companies, he responded that Google TV will likely increase demand for content-providers and cable companies. For the same reason, he believes the company’s forays into the news business will ultimately drive more traffic to newspapers and magazines.
When Chrystia asked Schmidt about Google’s decision to withdraw from China, he explained it was a decision based on values and that he was disappointed that other companies did not follow Google’s lead. Countries like China and the United Arab Emirates, which recently suspended the use of BlackBerrys, simply “don’t understand what has been unleashed by technology.”