Earlier this week I attended a dinner at the Corporate Ecoforum. The event, founded and produced by our friend MR Rangaswami, software and venture veteran and cofounder of SandHill Group, draws together senior executives from across functions and industries to review successful state-of-the-art eco strategies and their implementation. Eric Schmidt the CEO of Google gave the keynote speech, where he presented nothing less than an outline for a renewable energy policy for the United States. Fascinating and thought provoking talk to be sure. The timing of the speech was all the more enhanced by the fact that the date fell on Google's 10th anniversary and was days after the release of their Chrome browser. After his speech, as luck would have it, Eric was seated next to me for dinner and I got the chance for an extended conversation with him.
I had met Eric a few times 10 years or so ago when he was running Novell and have always been impressed with his calm, clear analytic skills and thought process. He listens, thinks and then speaks. An increasingly rare phenomenon today.
We talked about technology in general as well as media. His grasp of media trends beyond online is impressive. It's clear in talking with him that he increasingly views Google as an organizing media brand, as opposed to one that is simply cannibalizing all other media.
Given his background it wasn't surprising that he has a deep understanding of the brands and services we offer at TechWeb. I was pleasantly surprised however by his level of awareness and understanding of the successful transformation from CMP Media to TechWeb we have made in the last 2 years.
He asked me who I viewed as TechWeb's competition today. I outlined the traditional, new and nontraditional media companies and applications we currently view as competitive. He thoughtfully nodded his head making some specific comments about individual companies and which ones he felt had made the "transition". I then noted that Google should also be on this list. He rocked back, smiled and said "well I guess that's true at some level".
I asked him how he felt about the launch of Chrome, Google's new browser introduced the previous week. He said that the beta version of the product had exceeded his expectations. He didn't think the product would be this far along in it's launch version. I let him know that across all of the TechWeb online sites Chrome went from 0-5% in browser share in the first 48 hours of it's release. Given the size and the technical depth of our audiences this is a major statement. He went on to say that their goal is to grow Chrome's share of the bowser market to the level that it diminishes Microsoft's IE to 50% or less. " This would break Microsoft's stranglehold and significantly change the game". I asked him if he felt the launch of Chrome is the acknowledgement that the desktop as we know it is now moving into the cloud. Again he smiled and said "we sure hope so".
The dinner ended with a birthday cake to celebrate Google's 10 year anniversary. As Eric blew out the candles the reality of Google's size, clout and relative youth really hit me. Biggest 10 year old I've ever seen. By far. I wouldn't suggest here that I know Eric well. It was interesting to spend some one on one time with him however and to see the changes from his days at Novell. He is self aware and has a profound and respectful understanding of the role that Google plays in today's world. He appears to understand the responsibility that comes with the position that Google now enjoys. I may be projecting here but as he moved on to speak with others I could sense a bit of the Shakespearian "heavy hangs the head that wears the crown".
Quick shout out to one of the true pioneers in technology and marketing who was also at the dinner, Regis McKenna. Regis as most people know was very influential in the founding and marketing strategy of Apple, Compaq and a host of other technology companies. In the early 90's Regis wrote a piece for Harvard Business Review titled "Marketing is Everything" that defined the future of technology and marketing. The article literally changed the way I looked at media and marketing and served as a manifesto for a generation of technology, media and marketing execs. It was great to reconnect with Regis who continues to sit on boards of various technology companies as well as advise the technology elite.,