MediaFile

Google’s Schmidt wants to put you in a self-driving car

Google executives never miss a chance to talk up the futuristic self-driving cars the company is developing.

Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt gave an update on Google’s automotive efforts during a chit-chat with reporters at the Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley on Thursday.

“We have had conversations with all of the manufacturers globally, when politicians come by we love to put them in the car and drive them around at full blast,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt even revealed that Google maintains a little race course in a parking lot, where drivers can try to outgun the self-driving cars (typically a modified Toyota Prius).

“We ask you to race the Prius, inevitably the Prius wins against you,” said Schmidt.

Tech wrap: Facebook zooms into video age

Starting today, Facebook users will have the option of holding one-on-one video calls with their friends directly from their account on the social network. The new Skype-powered video service marks a renewed effort by Facebook to cement itself as the go-to communications hub on the Web and serves as a response to Google’s recently launched Hangouts app, a similar video chatting feature that lets users on its Google+ social network chat with up to 10 people at once.

Facebook’s video chat will be embedded directly into the site’s messaging platform and won’t require users to sign up for Skype separately to use it. Skype stands to see a big boost from the partnership seeing as it could open it up to a whole new set of users.  So how does Facebook’s video chat compare to Google’s? TechCrunch finds there’s little overlap at this point between the two services, arguing the former is well-designed for one-on-one pow-wows whereas the latter is better suited to group chats. In addition, Facebook unveiled a new group-messaging feature that lets users take part in text chats with multiple friends.

Remember that man who was accused early this year of hacking into AT&T’s servers and stealing personal data from 120,000 Apple iPad customers? Well, he was indicted on Wednesday by a Newark, New Jersey grand jury with one count of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to computers and one count of identity theft. The charges come two weeks after a co-defendant in the case pleaded guilty.

Sun Valley – Google’s Larry Page: Stop stressing about search data privacy

LarryPage at SunValley 2010Hey you Mr. Privacy Nut,

Google co-founder Larry Page has a message for you: Stop worrying about how data about your Web searching habits might be abused. Your search data is there to serve a greater good.

“It’s always easy to be fearful of a hypothetical bad thing that could happen in the future, and yet the data of these kinds of (search) logs and so on are actually very, very useful,” Page told reporters at a briefing in Sun Valley on Thursday.

He cited the company’s recent work using search data to figure out which regions in the US were experiencing flu outbreaks. Google was able to detect the flu more accurately than the government, Page said, and probably could save it tens of millions of dollars in the process.

Sun Valley: Jane Goodall and the primary primates

John MaloneIt’s day three of the Sun Valley media conference and the event has started to feel like a Jane Goodall documentary, in which we’re Jane and the moguls are the apes who have become comfortable letting us observe and record their movements. Several media executives groggily making their way to the morning’s first session (scheduled to kick off at 7:30), stopped to chat with the throng of press waiting to greet them.

Liberty Media Chairman John Malone voiced concerns about the economy for nearly 10 minutes while NBC’s Jeff Zucker, who once warned of the risks to media companies of trading analog dollars for digital pennies and later upped the exchange rate to dimes, posited the idea that the media industry was now within reach of collecting digital quarters. It’s change we can believe in.

Later on Thursday, Google’s chief executive Eric Schmidt (who for reasons unknown has been toting a camera with a beefy zoom lens throughout the event, even after-hours at the bar on Wednesday evening) will hold his traditional Sun Valley press roundtable, possibly with co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who are here.

Live blog from Sun Valley

Welcome to our Sun Valley live blog, running July 6-July 10. Check here for the latest buzz from one of the most important media gatherings of the year.

Sun Valley: Sling Media co-founder has questions about Google TV

(Updates to reflect correct name of Slingbox product)

Google is a few months away from releasing Google TV, its new service that blends television with Internet capabilities.

But at the Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley, where the masters of media, entertainment and technology congregate every July to schmooze and talk shop, one attendee with experience mixing TV with the Web noted the challenges facing Google as it tries to conquer the living room.

The “entertainment experience is not just about having a search box and some great algorithms. We all want that and we all enjoy that part of the experience” but it’s only one part of the experience, said Blake Krikorian.

No love for journos in Sun Valley

It all seemed so promising. The first night at the Sun Valley Lodge bar at the annual Allen & Co  gathering had been a happy affair for the press corps as they mingled freely with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (that’s him on the right), WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, Activision’s Bobby Kotick, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Capital Research’s Gordy Crawford, Lachlan Murdoch and Harvey Weinstein, among many others.

But the press corps, lulled into a false sense of bonhomie by the new openness, were in for a big disappointment this morning when they got to the Sun Valley Inn. The organizers have decided that press is no longer allowed to hang around the lobby area to speak with event guests as they leave presentations. It also means many a journalist/blogger here will no longer have a  nearby location from which to file stories.

The normally amiable but stern off-duty New York cops who act as security here were asked how reporters were going to be able to power their laptops and write stories. One guard seriously suggested filing stories from the lavatory. I guess that’s one way of  expressing his true opinion of journalists.

Live blog from Sun Valley media bonanza

Welcome to our Sun Valley live blog, running July 6-July 10. Check here for the latest buzz from one of the most important media gatherings of the year.

Sun Valley: Execs join reporters in bar exile

Allen & Co might have thought they were being helpful to executives by shutting out the working press from the usual mingling with the executives at the Sun Valley Lodge bar. Its annual media and technology conference includes the reminder to its attendees that they’re not supposed to talk to the reporters who fly out, uninvited but not unwelcome, to try to get the big guys to talkMaybe it wasn’t so helpful. At least four CEOs told MediaFile and other reporters privately here that they were less than impressed with the decision. Executives who wanted to speak with individual reporters or hold court with several at a time had to do it outside the bar. And that’s just what many of them did, opting to hang with each other and various journalists in the lobby outside the bar, leaving the wonderful staff of the lodge’s bar to ferry drinks out to the crowd.Google CEO Eric Schmidt held his annual sit down with reporters on Thursday by the fireplace in the lobby of the Sun Valley Inn, and a bunch of other top movers in the media world from Hearst Magazines chief Cathleen Black to News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and Time Warner Inc CEO Jeff Bewkes seemed to think little ill of jawing with the press during cocktail hour.The hired security at the event said Allen & Co made the decision on Tuesday after someone complained. The decision reversed years of tradition here where the press and executives mingle in the evenings to have off-the-record chats and trade gossip.On Saturday, the last day with just one (MediaFile) reporter left, the security seemed to relax a little. The head of security told this reporter, “I’m letting you get away with murder because you’re the last guy here.”Let’s see if we can apply that policy to the bar next year. Everyone can use a little social lubricant, especially executives and the reporters who make their living off covering what they do.

Sun Valley: Cost cutting at Google?

Has Google stopped offering staff bottled water as it cuts back on costs during the recession? It’s not clear even after journalists spent time with CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founder Larry Page at the Sun Valley conference this week.

Page and Schmidt couldn’t seem to agree on whether bottled water is still available for free at Google’s Mountain View, California campus, which is renown for its generous buffet-style lunches free for all employees.

Schmidt was telling reporters how the company has worked to get itself “right-sized” to perform well financially regardless of the ongoing economic downturn. One of those cuts was water he claimed.