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I must confess that I often find it hard to read Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) CEO Larry Page. Sometimes, I truly believe he is the "do-no-evil" genius who is changing the world with his extraordinary grasp of technology. Other times, I wonder if he's an undisciplined and unfocused Peter Pan who spends too much time scootering around the Googleplex.
Fortunately, the former description seemed more accurate while watching Page on Charlie Rose recently. He calmly, yet passionately, answered questions about a wide array of topics. I came away confident of his leadership and Google's future, though I'm not quite convinced by his defense of his company's initial social search efforts. Below are his thoughts on a number of topics that came up in the interview:
1. Facebook: When Page was asked if he feared Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) , he replied judiciously that they take the social media juggernaut quite seriously. He added that he believed in a more open Internet, and hoped that Facebook would be more open with its data in the future. Ultimately, he implied that he thinks Facebook will evolve in that direction.
Page admitted that he was pushing Google's own social initiative very hard, and believes that those efforts have already begun to improve the company's overall search business. While it's true that Google+ has only around 170 million users by his estimation (compared with Facebook's 900 million plus users), Page feels that Google has already accomplished a lot in the area of social search.
2. Mobile: Page told Rose that the future is mobile. It's everywhere, and everyone on the planet will have a mobile device relatively soon. He doesn't believe, however, that the PC is over, though he does think that the "PC as a bad experience" is over.
In retrospect, he's extremely happy that Google bought Android, and is very excited about the Motorola acquisition as well. All in all, he thinks Google has been both lucky and prescient when it comes to their mobile strategy so far.
3. On being CEO: Page admitted that being CEO means "doing more of everything." He feels a tremendous responsibility to the world and Google's various stakeholders. Prior to taking over as CEO last year, the business had become very complicated, and management was struggling to do everything well. Over the past year, he's tried to streamline the company's processes a bit more. He noted that Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) Steve Jobs had told him many times to "stay focused" and that's what he's trying to do. He wants to focus on the "big and important things that will change the world."
4. YouTube: He said YouTube is "growing like crazy" and estimated that the average user watches for a couple of minutes each day. He's very confident that amount will go up considerably in the future. In fact, it could perhaps grow to an hour a day, he feels. So far, he believes Google is learning quite well how to monetize YouTube and feels they will get even better at it.
5. On the competition: He really underlined the point that all businesses get increasingly complicated over time. For example, he noted Samsung's complex relationship to Apple -- it's both a supplier and a competitor. Ultimately, he'd like to see Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , Apple, Facebook, and Google strive to create more openness in the way they conduct business. He does recognize, however, that creating great products for users requires a certain amount of control as well.
Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from the video was that Page believes that Google is only 1% of where it could be. The company is involved in a wide array of exciting endeavors, and he firmly believes that its technology can transform our world. As an example, he thinks automated cars will happen much more quickly than people think, and that they will change the way we drive in the future.
I came away from this interview very impressed with Page's vision of Google's future. And he seemed quietly confident about his company's capabilities, though I'm somewhat skeptical of his enthusiasm for Google+. All things considered, investors may want to take a second look at this transformational company.
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