updated 04:00 pm EST, Tue February 28, 2012
Google chief talks phones and robots at MWC 2012
Google chief Eric Schmidt during his evening keynote at Mobile World Congress this year made a swath of predictions that focused heavily on low-cost smartphones. When asked when Android would make its way to basic feature phones, he noted that Android was already going that route. Device builders were working on Android phones that would cost in the $100 to $150 range within the next year, and that it was likely they would drop down to $70.
"Why don't you get a smartphone?" he asked the original questioner.
When resold to end users, the cost on many of those phones would drop to $20 or $30, Schmidt said. He saw use exploding once it approached that barrier and imagined everyone possibly having an Android device.
The executive was also grilled on the question of Android being permanently forked by devices like the Amazon Kindle Fire, which are heavily customized and can't use Android Market or certain other official Google apps. There was a big "opportunity" for those who went the official route, out of exposure to major storefronts like Android Market, but it wasn't necessary. User demand might push them back in, he said. Open-source by its nature made these splits possible, and Google had "understood this would happen" in time, but wouldn't do anything about it.
He made the odd assertion in the meantime that Apple would sue companies that didn't follow its official app guidelines. The company hasn't done that so far, but it didn't stop him from speculating. "We don't sue them, if you get my drift," Schmidt answered.
The speech also contained a few minor revelations. Google Fiber would manage 300 to 350Mbps in the real world in its Kansas City rollout, but it would still be enough for streaming holographic video. Also, Google at one point had considered a virtual currency akin to Bitcoin, named Google Bucks, but had backed off over concerns it would violate US law.
Many broader predictions saw robots virtually attending events like rock concerts, or mesh 4G and Wi-Fi networks providing Internet access in rural areas where a central hub was difficult. However, he stressed that technology shouldn't get in the way. It's your choice to go to the concert, he said, and you could always switch off your phone.