Google's goals this year are all mobile, CEO says

Priorities are mobile payments, cheap phones for the poor, and faster networks, Eric Schmidt says in Harvard Business Review

All of Google's strategic initiatives this year are about mobile, the company's CEO, Eric Schmidt, wrote in a guest article for the Harvard Business Review titled "Preparing for the Big Mobile Revolution."

He laid out three developments Google plans to encourage in order to realize its vision of delivering personalized, timely, and location-aware information to people. The company has already made strides in each area.

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The first is the development of fast networks, specifically LTE, Schmidt wrote. They will "usher in new and creative applications, mostly entertainment and social, for these phone platforms," he wrote.

All of the major operators in the U.S. are already building their LTE networks or have stated that they plan to. While Google is not in the business of building networks, it has been outspoken in its support of broadband wireless. For instance, it pushed the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to require winners of a recent spectrum auction to allow any device and any application to run on the networks, ensuring that future Google services wouldn't be blocked by operators. The FCC did put open access requirements on some of the spectrum it auctioned.

Schmidt also said that "we must attend to the development of mobile money." In a recent update to the Android operating system, Google added support for nearfield communication (NFC), a technology that lets users tap their phones against a sensor to make purchases or debit an account. NFC has been around for years but has failed to take off, in part because it requires that phone makers include a special chip in the phones and that retailers install sensors that can read the chips. Google must rally many other industry participants in order to reach widespread use of the technology.

Third, Schmidt said Google wants to increase the availability of inexpensive smartphones in poor regions. "We envision literally a billion people getting inexpensive, browser-based touchscreen phones over the next few years. Can you imagine how this will change their awareness of local and global information and their notion of education?" he wrote. There being a billion browser-based phones also means that Google can display advertisements to that many more people around the world.

Already, even without achieving each of those developments, interesting services are available, Schmidt said. "We are at the point where, between the geolocation capability of the phone and the power of the phone's browser platform, it is possible to deliver personalized information about where you are, what you could do there right now, and so forth -- and to deliver such a service at scale," Schmidt wrote.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for the IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com.

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