SAN JOSE, Calif. – At its annual developer’s conference, Google announced a new voice search capability, a music streaming service and upgrades of Maps and Google+, including automated online photo enhancements that compete with what digital cameras offer.
Unlike past years, the keynotes announced no shiny new Android or Chrome OS devices or hardware initiatives. However, in a surprise appearance Google chief executive Larry Page closed out the session with a short talk and Q&A, giving an upbeat engineer’s perspective on the state of high tech in general and Google in particular.
“We share a deep sense of optimism about the potential for technology to improve people’s lives,” said Page, appearing in a red T-shirt before an estimated crowd of 5,500 and nearly a million more on a live YouTube Webcast. “We haven’t seen this rate of change in computing probably since the birth of personal computing,” he said.
Claiming pride in being a “nerdy curmudgeon,” Page told of his father driving the family across the country to see a robotics conference and arguing to get the young Larry into it. “We need more kids falling in love with math and science and people graduating with science and engineering degrees and working on technical problems,” he said.
Responding to audience questions Page said:
- Young engineers should focus on first principles. “I encourage you to avoid incremental thinking and have a really deep understanding of what you are doing.”
- Most of Google’s out-of-the box initiatives have paid dividends such as a self-driving car effort which contributed ideas and staff to Google Maps. “The amount we spend winds up being small checks.”
- Microsoft is not letting Google fully interoperate with its platforms. “I am sad the Web is not advancing as fast as it could be; we have struggled with Microsoft.”
- Google Health “didn’t make much progress--primarily all the issues were regulatory. We will see amazing things in health care but I think they will be things that have a tech lever like [low cost] DNA sequencing.”
- Smartphones will eventually penetrate developing markets in India and Africa and become a primary business tool. “I can get almost everything I need to run the company on my phone, but unfortunately I don’t get to do much programming.”
- He attends the annual Burning Man event and sees it as a good venue for testing new products. By contrast, “I’m not sure about the value of getting on stage [at Google I/O] and saying everything is amazing. We should launch things in a humble way and see what the affect is.”