Google's Schmidt: Location, mobile ads will revolutionize commerce

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BARCELONA, Spain--Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt capped off the second day of the Mobile World Congress trade show here with a far-ranging and forward-thinking keynote address forecasting a future where increasingly personalized and relevant mobile services transform most every facet of users' lives. "Smartphones are taking over--smartphone sales surpassed PC sales on a quarterly basis just last week," Schmidt told a capacity crowd. "The smartphone is the destination for the next generation of games, apps and social connectivity."

Looking beyond the current mobile marketplace, Schmidt outlined what he called "a serendipity platform--your phone helping you learn new things and meet new people you wouldn't otherwise meet. Why does my phone not talk to my friend's phone? Why doesn't it monitor people who are ill?" Adding he believes very strongly in "the optimism of what we can do with computers and technology," Schmidt said the accelerated evolution of the Web, mobile and cloud services will ultimately shoulder even greater burdens plaguing everyday life, giving consumers the time and flexibility to spend more time with the people they care about, doing the things they enjoy and making the world a better place. "Computers are here to make us happier," he asserted.

Schmidt also stressed the increasing role of permission-based personalization solutions, anticipating a future where technology solves human failings spanning from fuzzy memories to boredom.

Shifting his focus to more contemporary mobile industry opportunities, Schmidt said he anticipates substantial breakthroughs in the mobile advertising segment. "Think about the creativity of the commercials you see on TV, and apply that on mobile in a personal way--that's the next great frontier," he said. "The display business is fundamentally about telling stories--that produces a better, more relevant ad and a more satisfied consumer. A billion dollar business is right in front of us."

In addition, Schmidt called mobile payment services and Near Field Communications transaction technologies a "mega-scale opportunity," outlining a scenario where he's walking down the street in a commercial area. "My phone remembers I need new pants, and it knows ahead of me are two stores--one offering the product at a 20 percent discount, the other offering a 30 percent discount. I enter the store with the bigger discount, the pants are ready, and out I go. You don't think this is going to work? It should revolutionize electronic commerce and payments. We're seeing that models around consumerism are working when they're tied to location and advertising."

Despite the mobile industry's myriad innovations, Schmidt cited its capacity to revolutionize life in developing nations as his greatest source of pride. "The future is for the masses, not the elite," Schmidt stated. "Two billion people we've never heard from will enter our conversation in the next three to four years. Because of mobile, it's possible, and it will change their lives more than it changed any of ours. That's what I'm proudest of."

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