There's a good chance that you either have a tablet - one of those computing devices that's larger than a cell phone but much smaller than the laptop - or you thought about buying one. And when you look at the shelves, you have many options. Apple's iPad has 80 percent of the market right now, but there's also Samsung and Motorola, RIM, HTC and many more.
Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says this isn't just a brand war. It's a war of ideas and a war for the future. I sat down with Schmidt for a special we're working on about innovation, which will air on June 5th at 8pm ET/PT.
Schmidt has more than a bit of a bias with Google's products but his insights into the future of technology are nonetheless absolutely fascinating. Here's a transcript of my interview with him:
ZAKARIA: You have Apple coming out with this extremely elegant iPad that everyone's in love with. But it requires that you follow Apple's rules and all the restrictions that it places. No Flash and no Windows being the most prominent. And now you have Android providing a kind of open platform. Obviously, as the head of Google you're going to tell me Android is going to win. But tell me something about this contest.
SCHMIDT: It's a classic contest in high-tech. And in that contest, you have a very well-run, very focused, closed competitor who builds a great product that does something that's very useful. That will be Apple.
You have another competitor who makes all the technology available to everybody else and using creativity and various partnerships and so forth gets the benefit of everyone else's creativity.
Because there are more people involved in the open side of that - that side will eventually get more volume, have more investment, therefore have more creativity and more innovation. Ultimately, the end user will choose the open one over the closed one.
ZAKARIA: Except right now all these tablets that are Android based are, let's be honest, not as good as the iPad and they're more expensive, which strikes me as unusual.
SCHMIDT: But which approach will produce a lower product quicker? One manufacturer for a product or many manufacturers competing? The fact of the matter is we're just at the beginning of this fight. And the fight between two very well-run, very large, very significant ecosystem companies will ultimately produce great value to consumers because the fight between them will keep prices low, keep the systems honest and open and encourage the kind of investment that people want to see.
One of the greatest things about this contest is that the people who win in this are the consumers.
ZAKARIA: But you imagine that this will end up very much like the PC market where Apple had this very elegant product that many people thought was perhaps better, but because it stayed closed it ended up being a boutique product and yours will be open, much larger, with many more users and many more applications.
SCHMIDT: There's pride in both approaches, but they're completely different. In Apple's case, they can continue to build beautiful and excellent products. The ecosystem that Google represents will continue and already has more volume, more users and will have more investment in the platform. Ultimately that will produce cheaper, better and faster products for everybody.
ZAKARIA: Is cloud computing also part of this future and that the actual device does not need to be that powerful because you can connect into the cloud?
SCHMIDT: As an experiment, turn off all of your devices and disconnect from the Internet for six or seven hours. You realize how dependent you have become on it. Not just for communication but for your services, to buy movie tickets or what have you.
The architecture of the Internet is now turning to this thing which we all call cloud computing. Cloud meaning the information is out there in the clouds somewhere and you just pick up a device, turn it on and it's there.
The new generation of devices from Google and others, you'll be able to just pick them up, log in and then just give it to somebody else, log off and it will erase your information and so forth. All of a sudden the device has become disposable. All of a sudden, when you drop or you lose or you break your computer, you wouldn't lose everything, because it's stored in the cloud.
ZAKARIA: You once said to me mobile phones will be 100 times more powerful than they are in 10 years. That sounds difficult to imagine.
SCHMIDT: Well, think about mobile phones a decade ago and you can see that it is 100 times faster today than it was 10 years ago. How quickly we forget the primitive world that we lived in 10 – 15 years ago.
The fact of the matter is that the future is mobile computing that people will carry any number of devices connects to the clouds. And those devices will provide some varying services. Today, your phone knows who you are, where you are, where you're going to some degree because it you can see your path. And with that, and with your permission, it's possible for software and software developers to predict where you are going to go, to suggest people you should meet, to suggest activities and so forth.
So ultimately, what happens is the mobile phone does what it does best, which is remember everything and makes suggestions and then you can be just a better human and have a good time.
ZAKARIA: What will the world of technology look like 10 years from now?
SCHMIDT: It's hard to predict 10 years. But we do know that the devices will be so much faster and so much more useful. The real revolution is in the applications.
There's a new standard in the Internet called HTML 5 which everyone is adopting, which means that web applications will run on all of these devices in a very powerful way. They have very complex and powerful games that people will spend their time on - a whole new generation of social activities of one kind or another.
But to me the most interesting things about what computers will do will be allowing us to have more fun, to have richer lives, to think about new ideas. The computer will suggest things that you might be interested in.
Since I'm a history buff, if I'm walking down here in the street, it will tell me the history of the area. It will tell me that something that I might be interested in.
All of a sudden, that augmentation of my human experience is really a wow moment every – every hour.
ZAKARIA: And of course, after a while we'll take it for granted and we wouldn't imagine life whatever without it.
SCHMIDT: And just like your children have always grown up with cell phones, the next generation of children will grow up with this ubiquitous network of intelligence around them. And they'll take it for granted and they'll wonder how you actually operated without knowing all this all al the time? How did you determine where to meet somebody?
ZAKARIA: So should we be teaching the way we are teaching now with intelligence all around? Do we need to be drumming facts into people's heads with spell check all around? Do we need to be teaching them spending hours and hours teaching children how to spell?
SCHMIDT: There's a lot of evidence that the next generation of teachers will use computers much more interrelated in the classroom - that an awful lot of learning is better when self-paced and when it's targeted to the students.
So if you can come up with teaching programs where there are tests and appropriate metrics and then the students with appropriate incentives can keep going, there's a lot of evidence that people learn best in these multiplayer games where all of a sudden audio and visual cues and contests and prizes, people move very quickly through those and they learn enormous amount.
People were very concerned when games came along that another generation of people would be stupefied. But somehow the testing indicates that the navigational aspects and the role playing aspects of these games and that improves cognition, improves their ability to reason even though you look at it and say how could that be. It looks like they're very good for people.