Optical/IP Networks

Google Execs Tentative on Telecom

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) continues to take a very measured approach to telecommunications services, judging by the remarks of Google execs who spoke at a “Press Day” event at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters Wednesday.

The executives said any new applications or services the company introduces will complement Google’s core business, which remains Internet search and advertising.

The wireless space is of particular interest to Google. The company sees a growing opportunity to deliver search functionality and advertising to cell phones. “I see that now; I’m a believer,” said CEO Eric Schmidt.

But the company doesn’t necessarily want to provide the wireless service itself. Asked if Google would begin selling wireless as an MVNO, Schmidt quipped: “No. We’re busy.”

Schmidt also said Google will not participate directly in the upcoming wireless spectrum auctions, but may do so through a partner. (See Route 66.)

Google also has been experimenting with “click-to-call” functionality in its ads, but apparently ad buyers are less than enthusiastic about the new feature so far. Click-to-call ads feature a small phone icon that when clicked places a PSTN-connected call to the advertiser. (See Google Clicks to the PSTN?)

The Google VP who at one time managed the click-to-call initiative, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, says advertisers don’t yet appreciate how click-to-call leads to greater ad ROI. Cassidy characterized the function as a work in progress that may become more of a factor in the future.

One place where Google has dipped its toe into actual service provision is municipal WiFi. (See Google, EarthLink Team for SF WiFi.) On Google’s future plans for muni WiFi, Google president Larry Page says they depend greatly on how well the company's Mountain View and San Francisco projects go. “It is very much an experiment for us, and we are very hopeful that it succeeds...” (See Google Out of Valley WiFi Bid.)

All in all, Google doesn’t see its reliance on cable and phone company broadband pipes as much of a issue in the future.

“In general, I think Internet access has been pretty available and pretty open and... it pretty much works,” Page said. “It’s an amazing achievement -- that’s why we are so interested in the net neutrality issue." (See Net Neutrality Primer.)

“I think that efforts by companies who have very captive users where there is very little competition for last-mile service -- I think that’s damaging to innovation as well as to the general sensibility of information.”

Page says that because Google can provide “five nines” of reliability for search, it should have no trouble providing the same service level for WiFi. Unfortunately for Google, more than 100 journalists couldn't file stories from its campus on Wednesday because its WiFi service was down for the better part of the day.

Aside from the telecom-related stuff, Google announced several new products Wednesday.

Google’s vice president of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, introduced a new version of Google Desktop 4, which provides the platform for a series of entertainment and communications productivity tools. Users can drag applications (like a video player or an Instant Messenger) from a sidebar on the desktop without having to open a browser.

Another new application, the Google Notebook, allows users a place to paste and save Web content (like product information) as they browse. It's quite a step up from earlier versions of the Google Notebook. Google “Co-op” brings in specialty organizations like Open Table (a restaurant guide site) or the Centers for Disease Control to contribute expertise to certain searches. The company also announced an application called Google Trends that allows users to track Web searching trends.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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