Google CEO Larry Page took the stage at Zeitgeist 2012 sporting an augmented reality headset and joked, “If you guys are going to take my picture, I’ll take your picture, too.”
The headset is the basis of Project Glass, announced in early April this year. Page noted that although the project is in its early stages, he’s excited about how they work so far. Hinting towards his vision for the headset, Page perused the audience and quipped, “It doesn’t yet show me all of your names...”
Google Zeitgeist invitation-only events are typically current or forward-looking presentations by statespeople, inventors, humanitarians and other thought leaders. This year, however, Page is looking back over the year he’s spent as CEO of the company he founded with Sergey Brin, after Eric Schmidt stepped down and into the Executive Chairman role last April.
More than looking ahead, Page explained how the tech giant evolved so rapidly in the past year, changing their entire focus. In doing so, he offered glimpses of things to come.
Page Reflects on Google’s Changing Scope
To that end, Page shared his focus over his time as CEO, primarily in the way Google shifted its focus away from organic search. “It’s easy to think about technology as being relatively static... you know, Google’s a search engine, we’ve done these various things for a long time, not much changes,” he said. “But that’s not really what’s happening. I think that the pace of change is really accelerating.”
Google has shut down over 30 services since Page took over again, in a process he described as “painful.” Not surprisingly, Buzz got the axe, as did Google Labs, The Google Friends Newsletter, Knol, and Aardvark.
Page described his personal process for deciding which services are worth keeping: the Toothbrush Test. Do you use a product as often as you would use your toothbrush? Clearly, Google wants to be a part of the average user’s everyday life; this is where their focus will lie.
Most recently, Google finally closed the Motorola acquisition, after months of intense scrutiny by antitrust investigators.
Google’s Priorities: Google+, Search Plus Your World & Knowledge Graph
Despite its title of Beyond Today, Page’s speech did a substantial bit of looking back over the relatively short period since he regained the CEO seat, and even more recently spoke at Zeitgeist 2011 in September. The focus this time is markedly different; where Page hammered home the importance of user experience in organic search time and again at the last Zeitgeist, this time, it was about something more.
Their primary areas of focus over the last year, he said, have been Google Plus and search – though it’s worth noting that he’s actually speaking of Search Plus Your World, personalized signed in search that is customized based on social activity. Another major priority is Knowledge Graph, which Page refers to as Knowledge panels, released last week.
“What we’re really trying to do is get to the point where we can represent knowledge and we can do much more complicated types of queries,” Page explained. “We’re really looking at synthesizing knowledge and I’m incredibly excited about that.”
Google’s Vision for Search: Instant, Actionable Answers Straight From Google
Search should be about taking actions, said Page. When users want to buy something, book a flight, or see the weather, Google wants to have the answers right there for them. Last year, they made headway with Google Flights; the Knowledge Graph (or panels) is an extension of this capability. Google aims to be your one-stop shop for everything knowledge or information.
Of course, the original creators and providers of this information have concerns. What is the benefit to publishers when visitors no longer need to visit their site to access their information?
“We’ve been doing a lot of this work over the years,” Page said. “A lot of it requires deep partnerships, with probably many of the people in the room, to make sure we have access to the right kind of data and the right business models to make all that work.”
No kidding. Ultimately, he said, Google wants users to be able to take action, which is even more important in mobile.
Google “Making Some Big Bets”
Page notes that Google has taken on or developed some services over the years that people thought were either too expensive (YouTube) or just too crazy (Chrome) to pan out for them. However, they focus on the long-term. YouTube has doubled its revenue each year over the past four years, said Page. It was a good long-term bet, regardless of the acquisition cost or perceived risk.
“I think that’s a good example of how our philosophy is,” he explained. “We see things that people use a lot - that are going to be really important to them - and we think that usually, you can make money from those things over time.”
Anything you can imagine is doable, said Page, so long as you can imagine and work on it. Google relishes finding the impossible task and making it happen, that much is clear. Near the end of his presentation, Page shared his nearly Utopian vision of a world where every person had the resources they need to have a good quality life, resources he says are available now.
“We have enough raw materials and things like that. I think we need to get better organized and really move a lot faster,” Page said. “We’re really working on making that a reality, by developing amazing technology that helps the world get better organized, that helps people be more productive.”
Despite his reinforcement of Google’s “Don’t be evil” mantra and their lofty, admirable goals in search, Google has a tough row to hoe with partners and publishers given their new direction as a curator/publisher.
What do you think of the changes Google has made over the past year and what do you foresee for the remainder of 2012? Let us know in the comments!
See Larry Page’s Google Zeitgeist presentation in full: