CARLSBAD, Calif. — Speaking to Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt today, Walt Mossberg recalled that Steve Ballmer said the day before that the search interface has stagnated.
Schmidt disagreed, noting that Google recently added a “universal search” capability so search results include a blend of video, news and other previously specialized searches.
But Mossberg was talking about the interface, not the results. Schmidt defended Google’s minimalist look and said it’s not likely to change, although the company is experimenting in places like South Korea with pop-ups and other changes.
“I don’t think we’re going to go very far from the single search box,” Schmidt said.
Mossberg and Schmidt also dove into the particulars of Viacom’s lawsuit over YouTube hosting unauthorized Viacom content. Schmidt said Viacom should have waited for Google to develop tools to filter copyrighted material.
Why should they wait? Mossberg pressed.
“Because we follow the law. The law does not require us to build tools,” Schmidt replied.
No wonder they ended up in court. But the situation may change before they get a ruling. Schmidt said he’s expecting the online video phenomenon to lead to changes in copyright protection. The result will be a “complex mix” of user authentication, content creator authentication and user choice, which I think means everything will be tracked and tagged more closely online.
Mossberg also asked Schmidt about growing concerns that Google is amasssing too much power over digital advertising.
Schmidt said “I understand the concern” but implied that Google won’t be like Microsoft because users aren’t locked in to using its services.
“Ultimately we’re different from some of the previous incarnations of monopoly power … because we are one click away from losing the user.”
But the concern isn’t about search as much as control over the backend systems for placing digital ads, Mossberg said.
Schmidt said advertisers have choice there, especially now that Microsoft acquired aQuantive, a competitor to DoubleClick, the ad placing company that Google acquired this spring.
“The easiest answer to understand is the publisher of the content gets to make that decision,” he said.
As for the competition with Microsoft, the former Novell and Sun Microsystems executive said “you always worry about a company that has that percentage of the platform business in terms of Windows; that’s been true for many years certianly in my professional careeer.”
But he welcomed the challenge from his longtime nemesis.
“The competition is in fact good” for users and advertisers, he said.