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Google CEO Eric Schmidt weighs in on Philly’s tech future

Google’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt thinks Philly has what it takes to be a hub for technology. Schmidt was prompted by a question from Technically Philly at a press event following Penn’s 253rd Commencement Monday afternoon where he gave the ceremonial address. “To have a tech renaissance, you need universities, which you have here. […]

Google CEO Eric Schmidt speaks to press at a media event at Penn Monday afternoon. Rikard Larma/Metro Philadelphia

Google CEO Eric Schmidt speaks to press at a media event at Penn Monday afternoon. Credit: Rikard Larma/Metro Philadelphia
Google’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt thinks Philly has what it takes to be a hub for technology.
Schmidt was prompted by a question from Technically Philly at a press event following Penn’s 253rd Commencement Monday afternoon where he gave the ceremonial address.
“To have a tech renaissance, you need universities, which you have here. You need good engineering programs like [Penn and Drexel]. You need a vibrant youth culture and a diverse culture. I think you have all of that criteria here,” he said.
“It’s not a suburban phenomenon. It’s an urban phenomenon. Young people want to live in urban culture.”
Moments earlier, Schmidt walked into the small media room in the University of Pennsylvania’s historic Palestra basketball arena, took one look at the formal press conference arrangement and asked a dozen journalists to open it up.
As attendees of the question and answer session quickly shuffled chairs into a semi-circle, it was a subtle reminder of Google’s relaxed corporate attitude.
During the hour-long session, Schmidt answered dozens of questions ranging from monopolization allegations to Google’s service outage last week to its range of applications. He also spoke of the changes Philadelphia has been through in the past four decades since he was an undergraduate student at Princeton.
“Philadelphia since the mid-70s has been a wonderful success story. If you don’t see it everyday,” he said to the crowd, “than I see it when I visit.”
Schmidt acted unconcerned about monopolization allegations since the Obama administration took a harder stance on monopolies last week.
“When I think of the government’s role, as long as we benefit end users and are consistent with our principles, I don’t think we’ll have a problem,” he said.
As for search dominance – Google draws 64 percent of U.S. search queries -Schmidt challenged users to try another product like Microsoft’s or Yahoo!’s search engine.
“I will allow you to determine how hard it is to switch to another product,” he said.
Last week, Google service users were frustrated by an outage that affected Google.com, Gmail and YouTube. An issue with a router caused the outage that affected 10 percent customers for an hour, he said.
“We’re not perfect. It was an issue involving a router and you know what routers do. That’s not okay. We will work even harder to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt gives the Penn commencement address Monday morning. Credit: Rikard Larma/Metro Philadelphia
Schmidt spoke about his professional relationship with Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, whom he says Google relies on for discussions about next generation broadband.
“I talk to Brian every week. He’s very clever,” he said.
Schmidt didn’t outline monetization plans with newspapers, but insisted that theirs is a mutual relationship: newspapers choose to be listed by Google’s search robots.
“We’re in this together. The harder question we’ve not yet developed a substitute for the totality of revenue that newspapers generate,” he said.
Regarding its $125 million settlement with the publishing industry for its Google Library Project, Schmidt said that it would not become a paid service.
“We can’t charge for things which we don’t own, and we’re not going to make Google expensive when it’s free,” he said.
Earlier in the day as late family members and friends of students shuffled down 33rd street toward Franklin Field, graduates watched as Schmidt was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Pennsylvania.
“You built infrastructure that’s fueled the expansion of the world’s premiere search engine and created corporate culture admired and imitated by the world,” President Dr. Amy Gutmann said before a yellow sash was placed over Schmidt’s shoulders.
Schmidt later took the stage to deliver the commencement address.
“We owe a debt in my industry to Penn that is profound. It was in 1946 that ENIAC was invented right here in a basement down the street,” Schmidt said. “Everything you see descends from the principals invented right here. This really is the center of my world.”
Schmidt told the graduates to not be discouraged by the recession, but to be inspired by it.
“You have the best opportunity before you because you’re graduating in a tough time. Have the courage to be unreasonable. Don’t bother to have a plan. Instead, have some luck,” he told students.
“Stop right now. Take a minute and think of something completely new. And go work on that. Take that as your challenge,” he said.
Read a full transcript of Schmidt’s Penn comments here, courtesy of the Inquirer.

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