Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt sat down unexpectedly Thursday for 75 minutes with a dozen journalists to give their impressions on the state of the technology community and Google’s place in it.
In a relaxed discussion, the trio fielded questions about Yahoo, Microsoft and their relationships to Google. The discussion was unusual because Allen & Company, which organizes and runs the Sun Valley Media Conference in this remote corner of Idaho, allows for journalists to ask occasional questions. But a 75-minute press conference is very much the oddity. Moreover, most of the moguls gathered here have studiously avoided answering anything substantive about their dealmaking plans when accosted by journos.
The trio of Google execs also used the opportunity to talk about the inroads the company is making with its own branded mobile phone as a replacement for the iPhone, as well as the Chinese market and how they’re treated there — and even Google’s inhouse educational programs and the salaries and potential of teachers.
But first they had a few words about Bill Gates’ company.
“Microsoft has a long history of having deals that look quite good and end up looking not so good when you look at the fine print,” Schmidt said of Microsoft’s dealings with and to acquire Yahoo.
“We took the position that the world is better off with an independent Yahoo!”
Currently, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and president Sue Decker have been trying to structure a deal with Microsoft, but everything has been in limbo as Yahoo investors like Carl Icahn have stirred the waters with demands for board control. The initial pact was negated by Microsoft president Steve Ballmer, who thought the price of $37 a share was too high. So, that too has been a contract point.
Google stepped in to create a deal for advertising, not necessarily a search engine, which had been conjectured.
Schmidt and Page said Google’s deal was agreed upon nearly a month ago, but the company is still waiting for regulatory confirmation that could take another two or three months.
“I think it’s very hard for people on the outside to know where we are,” Schmidt said. “I think that’s the right thing for all.”
Co-founder Brin breathlessly joined Page and Schmidt about half an hour into the interview. Brin had been riding a bicycle and said he had a flat.
In his remarks, Brin was very emotional about the need for good teachers and schools in the U.S. He was responding indirectly to New York City Schools chancellor Joel Klein’s earlier presentation about the state of education in the country.
“Another important factor that nobody talks about is teachers’ salaries,” Brin said. “Teachers are among the lowest paid professionals. At Google, we’ve been paying our teachers 25 per cent more, but even with that, they’re among the lowest paid employees. I think it’s really important to have a living wage for teachers.”