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When I first arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco earlier this week for the big to-do put on by Google and Salesforce, I came upon CEO Eric Schmidt taping a segment for his own internal communications people.
What he was saying provided a pretty clear view of the way Google thinks about cloud computing -- and the company's intellectual self-confidence -- so I piggybacked on part of the interview just in case he wasn't granting any to the press -- or to little-known online video news startups like Vator.tv.
He wasn't, at least not according to his press folks. But I had known Schmidt since interviewing him once during a conference at a Las Vegas hotel room.
At that time, Schmidt was CEO of the network-software maker Novell, which despite an early technology edge was getting pummeled in the marketplace by Microsoft.
Perhaps as a distraction to that painful reality, Schmidt spent the first 10 minutes of our interview explaining why SFO airport so often has delays. It has to do not with cloud computing but the cloud ceiling-- often low during the foggy times of year -- and how close together its two main runways are.
My sense from that conversation and others I had with him was that he was an intellectual warrior in geek's clothing. It was clear he understood deep inside that the battle against Microsoft in the OS software market would not end well for Novell -- it didn't -- but was worth fighting on the principle that the better technology SHOULD win.
As with so many markets that Microsoft came to dominate, their offering was good enough, and cheap enough and marketed heavily enough that enterprises looked past Novell's better security features and bought Microsoft knowing that the giant would eventually catch up on technology.
I guessed back then that if Schmidt ever got the chance to take on Microsoft again, it would be a role well-suited for him.
Several years after that, he was tapped to be the third part of the ruling Google triumvirate with co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Today, Google is giving Microsoft such fits that it is trying to spend $40 billion to buy Yahoo and thus combine the distant No. 2 and No. 3 players in a market dominated by Google. And the best part for Schmidt is that Google not only has the better search technology, it's also got the deep pockets to invest and market at Microsoft's pace.
Back at the Four Seasons, after I reminded Schmidt of our previous meetings, he was generous enough to find time to grant Vator.tv an exclusive on-camera segment. I used that in my post earlier this week about the integration between Google online apps and Salesforce's customer tracking software.
Now, we get to hear more from Schmidt on making money from cloud computing and when the rest of the world will catch up to an idea that Google's brain trust has been certain of for some time.
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