Google Senior Exec Alan Eustace on Innovation Strategy and the Technology of the Next Decade

12/16/09Follow @gthuang

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ideas. Search is interesting—there’s no switching cost [for customers to choose a different search engine]. There’s lots of areas in search, mobile. We will be helpful to other companies, in terms of maps and other things we’re providing to help build other services. In mobile, we’re seeing incredible creativity around Android. This is a fantastic time to be an entrepreneur. There are so many changes in the way people access information.

X: Do you remember the first time you used Google? And how did you originally meet up with the Google guys?

AE: I used AltaVista first. Then I asked a friend who left AltaVista, and he pointed me to [Google in 2000-ish]. I ran the Western Research Laboratory, which was bought by Compaq and then HP. People who worked for me, or with me, all left and went to Google. It was probably 20 people. When the HP acquisition happened, I’d always said no [to joining Google]. But one friend said, ‘Now that the HP thing happened, I’m not going to take no for an answer.’ He set up a breakfast with me and Larry [Page], two blocks from where I worked. I didn’t have to go very far. Larry spelled out his vision, and it was much broader and more expansive [than what Google was at the time]. It must have gone well. I interviewed soon after. But I wondered about this little company—they weren’t making a lot of money.

X: Looking further out, over the next decade, what are we going to see across the main fields that Google competes in?

AE: The way it’s going to play out is very exciting. The next 10 years are going to be unbelievably powerful in terms of a technology point of view. Things I’m almost certain are going to happen: Machine translation will become ubiquitous and as good as human translation, so the language barrier will be gone. All mobile devices will have speech input. Having all local information—maps, directions, and so forth—will be commonplace. There will be big differences in what people are willing to share, but there will be lots of location-based [applications]. Families will be brought together more tightly; they’ll be able to see where you are, see all your pictures.

There’ll be great things. Education will change dramatically. Communication will be through video, not [just] voice—you’ll be able to participate in conversations, participate in a trip. There’s applications now, I can share real-time video with my mom. In search, we’ll be able to do document understanding, and synthesize information from two Web pages, so we can answer questions [from users]. You should be able to gain insights from data that’s in the world and on the Web, rather than simply finding an expert on the subject. You should be able to do research on the Web.

X: And quantum computing? (Just last week, Google revealed a three-year-old research project to use quantum algorithms to help recognize objects in photos.)

AE: I love looking at the quantum stuff. It’s potentially exciting, but it’s still pretty far off. We’re in a good position. If that research actually yields fruit, we’ll jump on that.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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