Several Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) executives attended the 2014 SXSW music and technology conference, including chairman Eric Schmidt and Sundar Pichai, the head of Android, Chrome and Google Apps. Morgan Stanley Research analysts Scott Devitt, Jordan Monahan and Erhan Soyer-Osman also traveled to Austin for SXSW, and they published a report on Sunday highlighting key Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and industry takeaways from sessions at the conference.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chairman Schmidt argued that mobile is a once-in-a-generation shift of power back to citizens, and predicts 1-2 billion people coming online through mobile within the next 3-5 years. He said that smartphones will soon become inexpensive enough that they will be nearly ubiquitous, and will help solve problems relating to education, safety, corruption and entertainment worldwide. This mobile empowerment could provide enormous social and economic benefits to emerging societies.
Google’s continued focus on consumer hardware
The Morgan Stanley report also highlights that the Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) execs at SXSW all emphasized the tech titan is moving ahead with its plans to develop consumer hardware. “Google is pleased with its Nexus program, using it as a way to push reference designs into the market. Google believes that Android hardware partners, including Samsung, also value the program, as it sets standards for user experience and raises platform visibility at no cost to hardware manufacturers. Google has now shipped “millions” of Chromecast devices; Mr. Pichai commented that sales continue to grow “rapidly”, and that Google plans to launch the device in several more countries within the next few weeks.”
Linking YouTube and Google Play
In one session, Sundar Pichai mentioned that the amount of music content watched on YouTube presents a “very interesting” opportunity for Google to link YouTube and Play closer together. The MS analysts point out this could mean new non-advertising revenue streams for Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG). Pichai also mentioned Google is interested in acquiring other non-music content to increase the value and usage of YouTube, but the company is not actively pursuing large-scale sports licensing agreements because of the relatively high cost.
The issue of data permanence was also a hot topic at SXSW this year. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has a policy not removing information from its index, so almost all text and photos posted on social media and other websites are permanent. The Google execs do acknowledge that online reputation is an important issue, and do not believe it is necessarily a good thing that so much more human activity is recorded and made public.
However, the Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) execs outlined two reasons they’re not overly concerned about the issue. First, as parents become worried that children’s online maturity often outpaces their mental maturity, greater “internet education” from parents, schools and internet providers can ensure that younger internet users are aware of data permanence and potential consequences. Second, as today’s “social media generation” begins to grow up and run for public office in the next few years, public opinion may shift towards data impermanence.