Backstage at the Google press conference
The real action was in the green room last night. Onstage, Robin Williams had zapped audience members who challenged Larry Page with questions at the company's keynote. But Larry and Google CEO Eric Schmidt faced the world's toughest tech journos on their own afterwards at an invite-only press conference. Google's event staff tracked our liveblog during the keynote and invited us after the show to join a dozen reporters from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and others. These guys made us look like pussycats. Our notes are after the jump.
6pm Las Vegas (PST) Friday
Larry explains that they move Google Video to a common codec format, to prevent frustrating video problems without committing to a proprietary format or a business partnership to do so.
Larry on the company's 20 Percent Time policy, which lets employees work one day a week or so on their own projects or whatever they want. "The important thing about 20 percent time is it lets you say no to your manager. That's a real change in the dynamic. Nobody can tell you you can't experiment. It doesn't mean you get resources."
Reporters ask about details of DRM deal with CBS. Larry, disinterestedly: "There're a bunch of details about that; I remember some of them, but they're not important. What we've seen with iTunes is that having a pretty good user experience is important ... I think this was a courageous move [for CBS.]"
Doc Searls asks if Google is "a long term hack on the producer-consumer relationship." Larry cites CEO Eric Schmidt's academic background and the academic orgins of the Internet (by which he means it's an open collaboration, not a vendor relationship.) The cool thing about the Web when it launched, he says, was that there was no real barrier to putting things online, "so people put up all sorts of crap. I think we're trying to move that further along."
A reporter at the back blurts out, "What about the Google PC?" Schmidt huffs in exasperation: "With all due respect, we issued a statement that we have tremendous partners in the PC space, so we have no interest in doing it. I guess some people don't believe it." Jason Calacanis lights into Eric that, come on, it's obvious they should build their own operating system. It'd be stupid not to, so they must be doing it. Schmidt still insists no.
Larry on Yahoo's lead in personalization and social networks: "The data that defines you socially isn't really that complicated, or that hard to collect." He makes some dismissive comment about people being impressed that Yahoo has lots of people's ZIP codes.
Eric says he argued with Larry and Sergey about the need to do Google Pack, but they convinced them it was necessary to make the experience a lot better.
One reporter asks why no productivity software in Google Pack. Larry: "There's a lot of software like Open Office out there. But we wanted to focus on keeping it simple and making the download work. We didn't think that was the right sort of thing to put in there at first until we'd debugged it."
Larry on video interoperability: "Technologically, I don't think this is a complicated problem."
John Markoff from the NY Times pins them on whether Microsoft could use Vista and monopoly power to knock them out. Larry: "Anything's possible." But that's dodging the question in terms of giving the Times a quote, so Markoff presses him to say more specifically,"That's possible." Schmidt jumps in. As CEO, he interrupts whenever one of his people gets backed into a corner. Plus he's obviously more experienced and savvy at press conferences. He says Google really believes in user choice and open alternatives, and the approach is a viable strategy against Microsoft's leverage (now so big even string theory cannot explain it.)
Steven Levy from Newsweek challenges Larry that Google Pack helps Microsoft because it's basically a service pack for Windows. "Uhhmmmm, yeah," Larry shrugs. "A lot of people use Windows," he offers regretfully, as if it were his burden in life to fix that.