Business

Google CEO Larry Page talks Apple, balancing futuristic ideas, and scaling bigger

Google chief executive Larry Page hasn’t given many interviews since landing the top job last April. And a vocal cord injury he’s suffered from much of the year has made him doubly quiet. We finally heard from him again at Google’s Zeitgeist conference in October, and now Fortune has published its own lengthy interview with Page.

The conversation covers the usual topics: Google’s relationship with Apple, and how the company is balancing its futuristic projects, like developing self-driving cars and Project Glass, with more pressing concerns. But Page also revealed some interesting details on how he views the competition and how he is focused on making Google an even bigger company.

When asked how he views the current competition, Page said:

Obviously we think about competition to some extent. But I feel my job is mostly getting people not to think about our competition. In general I think there’s a tendency for people to think about the things that exist. Our job is to think of the thing you haven’t thought of yet that you really need. And by definition, if our competitors knew that thing, they wouldn’t tell it to us or anybody else.

Even though Page thinks he’s describing a uniquely Google mentality, it also seems very similar to how Apple has approached developing devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Speaking of Apple, Page pointed out that he’s avoided rallying the troops at Google against its competitors, something Steve Jobs wasn’t afraid to do against Google’s Android operating system.

“… I think it would be nice if everybody would get along better and the users didn’t suffer as a result of other people’s activities,” Page said. “I try to model that. We try pretty hard to make our products be available as widely as we can. That’s our philosophy. I think sometimes we’re allowed to do that. Sometimes we’re not.”

When it comes to growing the company, Page said (naturally) that he wants Google to be “wildly successful”:

What does Google look like five years from now? What are we doing? Who’s doing it? How are we organized? What people do we have? And I think we have some answers to those questions. But I think, like I said, what I’m trying to do is to get a technology company that continues to scale its impact and aspirations in its everyday. We’re at a certain scale now, but I don’t see any particular reason why we shouldn’t be much bigger, more impactful than we are now. So that’s what I’m trying to figure out. And I think I have a lot of ideas about how to do that, and gradually, every day we increase our scale a little bit. It’s probably incremental in that way.

It seems only inevitable that Google will get bigger, but I hope Page pays as much attention to making sure Google gets things right before growing. Just as Android dominates smartphone market share, but took a while to become a well-designed user experience, Google could lose quite a bit by just focusing on being bigger.

Photo: Charlie Rose Show


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