Parsing CEO Q&As can be valuable because they sometimes lead to insight into the company's direction. There are some tasty morsels in this game of pepper between BusinessWeek and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
The primary topic was innovation, but Schmidt made some comments about acquisitions that we can't ignore, which I call attention to first.
Schmidt said the "alleged recession" could make for some tasty acquisition targets. Wow, if that isn't an open door to lure new talent, I don't know what is.
Schmidt rolled out the red carpet for troubled companies on that one. Indeed, a recession is about the only time when what would normally be predatory purchases look like lifelines.
Schmidt's comment means Google is already thinking about this, so if you see the search vendor's business development people in your office, you might want to check the pulse of the company you work for.
Moreover, on the subject of whether Google has a hard time making acquisitions because of its culture, Schmidt said staffers it acquires adjust to Google's loosey-goosey culture, which is becoming increasingly bureaucratic to all outward appearances.
In point of fact, Schmidt said people want to be bought by Google. I have no doubt this is true. I could count on my fingers and toes the number of startups -- and even some mid-major players -- who sucked up to Google during briefings I had with them.
Most of them were at Demo in January. They know who they are. Dudes: The stock options are now better at Facebook, et al.
Other things Schmidt opined on:
"Innovation has nothing to do with downturns." Wait. Are we in a recession?! Why didn't anyone tell me?
Just kidding. I mean, duh. People might not spend as much during recessions, but that doesn't mean there isn't some mad scientist-type inventing going on in programming labs, college dorm rooms (did you see how Napster killed during 1999-2000 before Metallica jammed its metal fist in its mouth?) and parents' basements.
Asked if other companies can copy Google's 20 percent, I-get-one-day-a-week-to-f%$k-around culture, Schmidt pointed out that the model keeps middle management from messing with innovation. He rightly said all tech companies could leverage this model, but don't because of the rigid culture. No argument there.
On innovation, Schmidt also said one of the challenges to Google is that now that it is so large, with almost 20,000 employees, too many people are spread out. How does a programmer code in Seattle and share it with other Google programmers in India?
It's the Internet, man! You'll figure it out. Hey, IBM's Rational people use Jazz, which is this cool collaboration technology for so-called geographically dispersed programmers. Don't tell me Google hasn't heard of it, or doesn't at least have its own software to do this in-house?
One thing was disappointing about this interview: no questions about Microsoft, the ultimate Google nemesis. Oh, wait a minute. The topic was innovation. Never mind.
(Note to Microsoft defenders: don't even mention Live Mesh until it sees daylight!)