Eric Schmidt's hypothetical "evil room"October 7, 2009: 3:54 PM ET
Imagining life at Bizarro Google.
On Wednesday morning Google (GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founder Sergey Brin met with a group of reporters and talked about a number of issues, from the outages its Gmail service has experienced to its efforts to digitize books to the company's culture.
Schmidt repeatedly deflected questions about the competition, saying Google prefers to focus on, well, Google. (In response to a question about Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer's assertion that adoption of Google's Chrome operating system amounts to little more than a "rounding error," Schmidt quipped: "I don't respond to Steve Ballmer questions.")
But Schmidt did offer a long explanation of why Google isn't Microsoft -- like when it comes to hemming customers in to its technologies and systems.
"There are many, many reasons why we are not going to be like Microsoft," he said. "The first has to do with the culture of the founders, the culture of the company, the value systems.
"The second has to do with the majority of the users, and usage is one click away from moving to a competitor, which is not true of more embedded platforms in high tech. It is very difficult to move out your database system, it is very difficult to move out of Windows, for technological reasons whereas it is quite easy to move out of these online services."
He then began a riff on Google's "Don't be evil" motto, in which he talked about a hypothetical world, let's call it Bizarro Google, in which the executives decided to use their power for the dark side. "If somehow we went into a room with the evil light...and we announced an evil strategy, we would be destroyed," he said. "There is a fundamental trust relationship between Google and its users."
Schmidt added: "We have not yet found the evil room on our campus."
Schmidt and Brin cited example after example of how the company fights for consumers, and how innovation at Google has unlocked new products and services in entire industries. A favorite example is Google's Android operating system for mobile devices. (The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Dell (DELL) will build a mobile phone for AT&T (T) using the Android platform.) Brin noted that it wasn't until Google released its software development kit for Android -- a set of tools that allow developers to create applications for Android-powered phones -- that Apple (AAPL) enabled third parties to build applications for the iPhone.
But whether such pro-consumer behavior means Google is always on the side of angels is a topic that the tech giant's competitors would gladly debate.