Google CEO Eric Schmidt sees a brave, new world for Internet-based technology, where users may see fit to change their names to protect their privacy; where they may no longer want, or need, to use search features; and where handheld devices may tell them what they need before they know it.
Schmidt, in a wide-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal, held forth about where he thinks recent tech trends are leading.
In a future world, as our private information becomes ubiquitous on the Internet due to postings on social media sites such as Facebook, young people should be entitled to automatically change their name on reaching adulthood, he said. "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time," Schmidt said.
"I mean we really have to think about these things as a society," he added. "I'm not even talking about the really terrible stuff, terrorism and access to evil things."
Search, the center of Google’s advertising profit, may someday become outmoded, he said, and will give way to something else. "We're trying to figure out what the future of search is," Schmidt said. "I mean that in a positive way. We're still happy to be in search, believe me. But one idea is that more and more searches are done on your behalf without you needing to type.
“ I actually think most people don't want Google to answer their questions," he added. "They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."
The information Google has collected about users may be used to lead them in directions they didn’t even know they wanted to go. Handheld devices may be used to prompt them. "We know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are," he said.
Schmidt also said Google will face up to mounting antitrust, privacy and patent issues being raised as the company continues to expand its reach, but says Google will prevail by doing what is "good for consumers" and "fair" to competitors.
As always, Google’s enemies hope for the worst, including it the other behemoth in the tech world, Microsoft. "There's a set of people who are intrinsic oppositionists to everything Google does," Mr. Schmidt acknowledges resignedly. "The first opponent will be Microsoft."