Google's Susan Wojcicki, ClearStreet's Kim Polese & All Things D's Kara Swisher talk about Facebook as crap closet, Google the borg and Walt Mossberg's never-get-laid glasses

You know those panel discussions that are a part of pretty much any conference? They are always part information and part entertainment  – and the panel on the future of tech at Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s annual State of the Valley conference Friday didn’t disappoint.

Tech world heavyweights Susan Wojcicki, of Google; Kim Polese, of ClearStreet and Kara Swisher, of the Wall Street Journal and All Things D, were dishing out insights, insults and other zingers at a hyper clip. A sampler:

Swisher on how Apple naysayers are overreacting…

“Besides Google there’s no company with a bigger cash horde it’s like $14 trillion or something (for the hyperbole challenged: that’s an exaggeration)  That’s a really sorry company. They sell 80 million iPhones and then everybody is like, ‘Oh that’s a disappointment.’

“I really think it’s because the expectation has gotten so far ahead of itself.  I think it’s an expectations game. I think they’re very successful at what they do and like any company they face challenges. And the magic-unicorness of it is over because of the death of Steve Jobs.”

On the pace of change in technology…

Wojcicki:  “If you look at tech and look how quickly it’s grown; look at how much change we’ve had over the last 10 or 15 years and it’s been tremendous. And you look forward and you say, ‘How much change are we going to have?’ I’d argue it’s going to be even more. It’s going to be even faster. And all of our lives are going to be transformed.”

Swisher: “Remember when Microsoft was scary? Now they’re not scary. Not at all. And they’re almost like a pet now. You almost feel sorry for them.

“In the case of Apple, Apple is still running away with the profits. It’s running away with Web use. So the question is, can they stay as innovative with products and change them,  given how much Samsung, for example, is coming on strong; Google is amazing; Amazon is still in there. You’ll see some things from Facebook. So the question is, can they have that reality distortion field go on and on and on? It’s more difficult without a charismatic leader.”

On the future of tech

Swisher: “Google is building a time machine.”

Wojcicki: “And we’re also working on making people invisible. Don’t you see it?”

(Joking people. But seriously…)

Wojcicki: “I think one of the things we have been thinking about a little bit is what are some of the challenges to things that people have thought about for a long time but never have actually been able to accomplish. And we’re thinking  in terms of moon shots and how can we do something that’s really not just incremental but something that would be really, really different.”

On the fashion challenge of Google glass, the magic glasses…

Swisher: “The glasses are interesting. I’m not wearing those. I’m married, but I want to date someday. Walt (Mossberg of All Things D) calls them the never-get-laid glasses.”

On Google’s driverless car and its performance in adverse weather…

Wojcicki: I can’t swear by how it performs in rain and snow, but I would think you have a car, it has to drive in rain. I am hoping that we can get these out before my kids start driving. That’s my personal goal.

On Facebook fatigue

Polese: “There was a beginning, and in the beginning it was this exciting, new, crazy, wow, we can tell everybody about every minute of our day, what’s going on in our lives. We can share that to the world. There was sort of a newness to that.

“I think there is a fatigue around that constant updating. What I do see, however,  is that businesses are actually gaining value from Facebook.  I talk to some of the biggest retailers out there and what I hear is that they are able  to get information and learn more about their customers through the interactions on social networks, not just Facebook.

“So I think we’re just at the beginning here. Again, an over-hyping of the potential on the commercial side of the social network. I think we’re just beginning now to tap into the true power of that. It’s early days, but that, to me, is the untapped and un-talked-about area of social networks, where a lot of the action is happening.”

Swisher: I think their biggest problem is that  it is still primarily a desktop experience and it’s not as easily transformed to mobile as Google search is to mobile and so that’s difficult.”

They have a more difficult problem because they were just barely monetizing the desktop and all of the sudden the rug gets pulled out form under it and they say, “Now you have to monetize this tiny little screen,” where they have very little control, effective control. I think that’s their biggest problem.”

“And there is an element of constantly updating the whole thing. Sometimes Facebook feels, to me, it feels like, you know, everyone has that closet full of crap and you know there’s valuable things in your closet of crap. But you just sort of look at it and you close the door again. You know there are things you want to get out of it, but then you’re like, “Oh, the closet of crap.”

Facebook and Google as competitors….

Swisher: “And then again they have pressure form the ever-present Google, who’s hovering around everybody’s business. I love Susan, but I always call Google ‘the Borg’ and they’re like moving around and they eat everything. Then they’re sort of shocked, ‘Why doesn’t Facebook let us crawl?’ And I’m like ‘ Are you crazy? You’re going to eat them and spit them out. And somehow you’re going to make the money. Why in the world would they let the Borg come to their planet?’”

Wojcicki: “I would say that the things that we’re focused on, we focus on green field opportunities. We spend time thinking about, ‘How can we do something that no one has ever done before?’ And we have a lot of examples of that.”

“One of the things I’m excited about, that we just started working on, is Google Now. Google Now is this tool. It tells you things before you ask.  (Sounds like a spouse.) It actually tells you, ‘You need to leave now. There is traffic. It takes 13 minutes to get there and there is seven minutes of traffic and you need to leave now.

“So things like that, that no one has really done before and that are really useful.”

 

 

Mike Cassidy Mike Cassidy (173 Posts)

I write about the culture of Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News.