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Google News, or Lack Thereof

Kim Hart

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt made a quick stop downtown today to speak at a luncheon held by the Economic Club of Washington. I was there with about a dozen other reporters, hoping he'd talk about the company's spectrum policy or drop a few juicy tidbits about its Android operating system.

No luck. Absolutely no news came out of the 30-minute talk. The world is moving to cloud computing rather than traditional PC-based computing, he said. Yes, we know. Google is pushing for a more open wireless environment rather than one largely controlled by the carriers. Ditto. And if the sophistication of technology keeps improving as fast as it is expected to, it will one day be possible to store 85 years worth of video on a device smaller than an iPod -- more than the average consumer can possibly watch in their lifetime. OK, that's mildly interesting.

There were, however, a few snippets from the speech that did catch my attention. For starters, Schmidt's mom was in the audience. In fact, she lives in Northern Virginia. And Schmidt was born at GW Hospital, grew up in Falls Church and attended Yorktown High School. Who knew?

He also shared a few details about Google's corporate culture that I found entertaining. He talked a bit about the company's "20-percent time" program, in which all employees spend one day a week working on a project of personal interest. For example, the Google's own bus fleet that shuttles employees back and forth between San Francisco and the Googleplex in Mountain View, which now operates 52 buses and costs the company millions of dollars a year to operate, was spawned by an employee's "20-percent" project.

Google also requires every employee to write a one-sentence summary of what they've accomplished every week. The computer system harasses employees until they submit their sentence, to keep an eye on productivity.

"We make contractors do this too...which is a cultural surprise to people in Washington," Schmidt said.

By Kim Hart  |  June 9, 2008; 2:24 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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