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February 15, 2011 at 10:57 AM

Mobile World: Google CEO says the phone is the new PC

BARCELONA, Spain — The mobile phone is the new PC, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said at Mobile World Congress.

Schmidt gave a keynote speech today at the conference, which is chock full of Android device makers, wireless carriers selling scads of the phones and developers building apps for Android.

Google’s mobile operating platform Android is now seeing 300,000 activations a day, Schmidt said. More than 100 phones and tablets models are now available running Android OS. The operating system competes with Apple’s iPhone and iPad (and their iOS) and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.

“Smartphones surpassed PC sales last week. By the way, PCs are not catching up. Smartphones are the future of games, productivity, apps, everything we think about,” he said. “…You have the phone, the new PC, if you will.”

He said phone has fulfilled Bill Gates’ prophecy that eventually people would have access to all of the world’s information at their fingertips.

The company plans to deliver new versions of Android every six months for mobile phones and tablets, and that Chrome OS will be focused on netbooks and PCs. Google also showed a demo of a new Android tablet application that makes movies out of photos, similar to Windows Live Movie Maker.

As he has said before, Schmidt said he considers Microsoft to be Google’s largest rival. “Today our main competitor is Microsoft. Microsoft has a product called Bing. … There are a few places where it may be a little too good,” he said, referring to Google’s allegations a few weeks ago that Bing was copying Google results. Phone giant Nokia also recently talked to Google about making Android its smartphone platform, but decided to go with Windows Phone 7 instead.

An audience member asked about fragmentation in the Android app marketplace and how some apps do not work across all devices. Schmidt said the company has an anti-fragmentation clause in its agreement with carriers.

In the future, Schmidt said he believes all applications will be built with the new Web standard HTML5, whether the apps are for the PC or mobile phone.

He also expects mobile payments to become standardized this year, as Europe irons out issues around NFC technology, which allows for the transfer of payment information on mobile phones. NFC here stands for near field communication, not the National Football Conference that the Seahawks play in. He called mobile payments a “mega-scale opportunity in front of us.”

In what may or may not have been a veiled insult of Apple and its high-priced products, Schmidt said, “What’s most important about this future is it is a future for the masses, not the elites.”

Schmidt also spoke about where the long-term impact of technological innovation is headed and how he believes it will make people happier, because they will have more time available to spend doing the things they want to do. “I would offer a happiness theorem that computers are really here to make us happier,” he said.

“You’ll never forget anything,” he said, because computers will remember it for you. You’ll never be lost because of mapping technology, he said. “Even better, you’re never lonely,” because of access to your friend’s information, he said. And then, because of mapping technology, “cars will drive themselves,” Schmidt said.

He did not go so far as to say you’ll never die, but he said eventually the mobile phone will send your health information to hospitals, “Your phone should be able to say you are having a heart attack. You should go to the hospital right now!”

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