Google CEO Larry Page spoke at Wednesday’s I/O kickoff event. Page wasn't there to talk about a particular product; instead he spent much of his time speaking about the philosophy of tech. Page took time to answer questions at the end of his address, a true rarity at keynote events. There were parts of Page's speech that came as such a surprise to those familiar with Google's predatory practices.
"Every story I read about Google is 'us vs some other company' or some stupid thing, and I just don't find that very interesting. We should be building great things that don't exist. Being negative isn't how we make progress. Most important things are not zero sum, there is a lot of opportunity out there."
That sentiment troubled John Gruber of DaringFireball, who wrote on his blog:
"Google fans seem to eat this kumbaya stuff up, to really believe it. But Google is the company that built Android after the iPhone, Google Plus after Facebook, and now a subscription music service after Spotify. They entered the RSS reader market, wiped it out, and are now just walking away from it. Gmail? Webmail but better. Think about even web search: Google search wasn’t something new; it was something better. Way, way, way better, but still."
You can't deny Gruber’s point here. Kevin Drum of MotherJones has apparently always been a skeptic of Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto. People have talked about that motto for the last 12 years, and they always say the same thing: Google has always straddled the lines of good and evil. From their dealings with foreign governments to other tech companies, there's no doubt that line gets blurred at times. Google also makes for a convenient and easy target and their complicated and their disastrous relationship with Oracle only adds to people's skepticism of the company's motto. It also didn't help that Page followed up his statements about greater technological partnerships by lambasting Microsoft with a cease and desist order to remove YouTube from its WindowsPhone.
Page also spoke about how people should be able to use technology, not be used by it. Google's product suite certainly appears to be targeted towards that goal. Unifying all Google products under a coherent and dynamic worldview was really one of the major windfalls of yesterday's event. It's easy to be a cynic in the tech world, but Page does actually have a vision for what is possible through the use of technology. Page's speech resonated with the audience, because at our core, we believe it ourselves. Technology is transformative. It is our best chance at addressing our nation's and the world's most difficult problems, and without a doubt it makes our lives easier, better, simpler.
For Page, the personal is technological. We are inextricably linked with the technology we use, whether we like that or not. Unlike so many, Page doesn't think that's a bad thing, nor does he think we should spend so much time fearing technology. We're not idiots; all of us know that competition helped to spurn many of Google's new releases, like their answer to Spotify. Truthfully, though, it is more than that. There is a guiding force to the tech community and that is the question, "can it be better?"