Google CEO Eric Schmidt Nov. 15 declined to proclaim Facebook Messages a threat to Gmail, opting for the company line that competition lifts the Web overall.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Facebook's Messages e-mail product was good for competition but refused the
bait cast at him in a question-and-answer session with media at the Web 2.0
Schmidt, who in an earlier keynote showed off
communications on an Android 2.3 smartphone believed to be the Nexus S, was
asked several different ways what he thought about Messages, its impact on
Gmail and the company's growing rivalry with the social network power.
"It's basically good to have more competition in the
space," Schmidt said guardedly. "They appear to be taking a different
approach, which is good. Competition is positive" because it raises the
bar for other products.
He refused to answer a question about how Facebook
Messages would impact Google's popular Gmail Webmail client, which he said
Google is happy with because of its speed and ability to search messages.
"Gmail is doing very well."
"As a group, you all are focused on the competition
as opposed to the fact that the market is getting larger," said Schmidt,
who was visibly exasperated by all of the questions pitting Facebook versus Google.
"There's no question that more entrants into
communications technologies, mobile technologies and so forth bring more people
with them. How many people are in the world versus how many people are there
online? We are all served by having everybody get online."
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced
Facebook Messages Nov. 15 only hours before Schmidt came to the
Palace Hotel to chat with the crowd about NFC and several other topics.
Messages enables SMS texting, e-mail, chat and regular
Facebook messages. Upon receiving an invitation by Facebook messages, current
Facebook users can register for a free @FB.com address on Messages and start
using the service.
Unlike Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Microsoft Live Hotmail,
Messages offers no subject lines, no carbon copies and no blind carbon copies.
When someone sends a message to the FB.com inbox, it will
be able to be picked up by any device a user designates.
The product has the potential to be huge, provided the
majority of Facebook's massive 500-million-plus user base opts to use it.
could ostensibly pinch Gmail, estimated to have almost 200 million users, and
the other long-time Webmail apps from Yahoo and Microsoft, which also have hundreds of millions of users.
Schmidt was hounded by media about Facebook for
a number of reasons. Facebook is Google's biggest advertising threat,
having racked up 23 percent
of display ads in the third quarter.
Facebook also refuses to let users export their contacts
keeping the walled garden intact versus Google, which wants to index all of the
valuable content it can find online and sell ads against it.