March 5th, 2009 by Lloyd Gofton
When Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, talks, people tend to listen. And so they should, Google has been pushing the digital revolution, and making money out of it, for many years. However, when Mr Schmidt decides to belittle a very popular, and most would argue useful service, people begin to listen even more, because there aren’t too many things coming out of the Google corporate mouth piece that haven’t been thought through and calculated.
So when Schmidt gave a presentation at the Morgan Stanley Technology conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, and said Twitter and products of its ilk are ‘poor man’s email systems,’ we wonder what his real message is.
Analysing the statement doesn’t really help. Twitter wasn’t designed as a substitute for email, although there are of course general similarities, and the ‘poor man’ statement just seems unnecessary. So why? With the massive coverage that Twitter is receiving, it’s obvious that such a statement would be beamed around the world in an instant and not only aggravate the ever growing Twitter fan base but position Mr Schmidt as the villain. So again, I ask why?
Fundamentally, the quote is only half the story. What’s more interesting is why Mr Schmidt gave this response, which was apparently in answer to a question about Twitter’s real-time search capability, well known as not only a very powerful conversation mining and monitoring tool, but obviously offering Twitter a very valuable advantage if it was to go the ad-funded route and thereby pose a threat to Google.
So, behind this rather odd statement, can we sense a hint of competitive fear? Or was it merely a lapse in the usually focused Google comms machine?
Interestingly, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has replied to Mr Schmidt’s comment and said: â€œWe think itâ€™s important to introduce the power of a real-time network to even the weakest of signals around the worldâ€”as Twitter grows, we realise itâ€™s not about the triumph of technology, itâ€™s about the triumph of humanity.â€
TouchÃ©! Or am I reading too much into the technology vs. humanity comment?