Google’s Schmidt: We Heart Carriers

MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS — Google Inc. has no plans to cut traditional operators out of the communications value chain, CEO Eric Schmidt insists. Instead, the two have a symbiotic relationship. They simply … complete each other.

“Find a way to say yes, not no, is our thesis,” he urged.

To wit, Schmidt took to the stage at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to tell the clearly skeptical audience that Google isn’t the enemy. Selling the Nexus One handset direct to consumers? Investing in WiMAX ventures? Launching the Google Voice telephony skin for masking other voice services (and saving consumers some money via toll reduction)? Embedding its Web apps by way of the Android mobile OS in an increasingly huge number of shipped devices (60,000 per day, he noted)? Angling to change the revenue model from subscription to advertising? Building out its ultra-fast own fiber to the home networks? Nothing to be too overly concerned about, folks.

“It’s not our objective to steal your minutes,” said Schmidt when asked about Google Voice.

What about the 1gbps fiber buildouts it has planned, and the WiMAX? “We are not going to be investing in broad-scale infrastructure,” Schmidt said. “It’s a very tough business and it’s not one for which we are very well optimized.”

Instead, he urged carriers to consider Google as a champion of broadband everywhere, to be seen as a complementary player as well as an important driver of data traffic to carrier networks.

And then there’s the other half of the aforementioned symbiosis. Google, which makes 97 percent of its revenue from Web-based advertising sees more broadband = more people surfing = more eyeballs = more revenue. But the carrier networks need to be there to support all that traffic.

“We want to have a little bit of Google in everybody’s transaction with the Internet,” Schmidt said. “Google benefits from the adoption of broadband everywhere, in mobile networks and in fixed networks.” Google plans to continue to focus on search advertising and charging for enterprise software, he insisted. Not becoming the next communications operator.

Summing up the proposition at a later journalist roundtable, he said: “We need [carriers] to go ahead and invest these enormous amounts of money at great risk and, in return, they need us to continue to build powerful new reasons to upgrade the connections and get a new phone.”

Therefore, Google loves the carrier role. And they in turn, he said, should generally strive to embrace the mobile Web and the changes that recent developments like smartphones with adequate computing power, the rise of app-ready, elegant OS and a thirst for cloud apps have wrought. Networks are a key part of the ecosystem.

“It’s like magic,” he said. “All of a sudden there are things that you can do that didn’t really occur to you … because of this convergence point that time is upon us – right now, right here, for this year and at least the next many years,” he said.

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