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Chairman: Google should have gone social earlier

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Schmidt on future of Google
  • Google's Schmidt: Company should have focused more on connecting people
  • Google+, the search giant's new online social network, is "a partial answer" to Facebook
  • Schmidt feels "absolutely comfortable" with fall hearing before U.S. antitrust committee

Tokyo (CNN) -- Looking back on his decade as Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt said the company should have focused more on connecting people -- a hole that allowed the emergence of rival internet giant Facebook.

"Fundamentally, what Facebook has done is built a way to figure out who people are. That system is missing in the internet as a whole. Google should have worked on this earlier," Schmidt, now the executive chairman of Google, said in an interview with CNN.

"I think that's the area where I would have put more resources, developing these identity services and ranking systems that go along with that. That would have made a big difference for the internet as a whole."

Three weeks ago, the company rolled out Google+, the search giant's online social network, which Schmidt called "a partial answer" to Facebook. Schmidt would not predict whether Google+ would be a full success or not.

Google+ has a 'celebrity acquisition plan'

But Google+ is off to a promising start, especially with tech-savvy early adopters. It has added 10 million members, Google reported on its quarterly earnings call last week.

"The lesson to be learned in high tech, you need to move through these new phenomena very quickly and you need to get the details right. Otherwise you're left behind," Schmidt said.

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, took over Schmidt's role as CEO earlier this year. Schmidt said the shift in leadership was to speed up decision making, not out of concerns the company was falling behind in innovation.

Tech elite struggling to define Google+

In a swing through Asia-Pacific that brought him into Tokyo on Tuesday, Schmidt hailed the "mobile revolution" in a region that has one of the world's highest rate of mobile users. Yet Google's smartphone operating system, Android, is lagging behind other competitors in the important Asian market.

Android's market share in North America tops 50%, while its share in Asia-Pacific is 34%, according to an analysis by Strategy Analytics. Still, it's growing fast in the region -- last year only 6% of smartphones were powered by Android.

Owning the portable digital space will become increasingly important as computing moves away from PCs.

"The PC, which you remember grew out of the IBM desktop model, if you're sitting in a corporation makes sense for someone who sits at a desk all day. What if people don't?" Schmidt said.

Google+ users are nearly all male

"The new generation of phones is so much more capable. So we're going from a situation where the average citizen didn't have that much power to a point where they can know everything and they can organize very quickly. That may bring down a government as in the case of the Arab Spring, but it may also challenge vested interests in a democracy."

As far as privacy concerns with cell phone location tracking, Schmidt called worries "legitimate." However, Android users have the option of whether to be tracked.

"Ultimately, it's not for us to judge what choice you make. It is up to us to give you that choice," Schmidt said. "In general, real-time location tracking and face recognition will ultimately be pretty heavily regulated because of the possible threat to individual liberty."

Schmidt said he feels "absolutely comfortable" with an upcoming appearance before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee in the fall, which is expected to probe Google's dominance over the web.

"Governments have a proper role to take a look at this and any time a company like Google has the amount of information we have, it's appropriate to review it," he said. "It doesn't bother us. We think there will be more of it. Information is simply too important."


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