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MWC: Google’s Schmidt Praises LTE, Regrets Nokia’s ‘Wrong’ Choice

LTE is fast, NFC is cool, and Nokia is backing the wrong horse, says Google boss Schmidt at Mobile World Congress

Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks will enable mobile application developers to offer a whole host of “killer” mobile applications, and Near-Field Communications (NFC)  technology is opening up new avenues for the mobile industry, according to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

Alongside the technology predictions in his keynote speech at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Schmidt held a press conference in which he regretted that Nokia had adopted Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and not Google Android and ducked the question of whether Google is to buy Twitter.

Smartphones are “clearly taking over,” and speeds of 8-10Mbps offered by LTE, will be key to “new and creative” apps in entertainment and social networking, he said in the keynote. “All of a sudden you have this agility that you never had before,” he said, “We need to start thinking about the implications of that level of smartness.”

Schmidt also said that Near-Field Communications – which can enable mobile payments by beaming and receiving information at a distance of up to 4 inches – would be “another mega-scale opportunity” for Google, claiming that it “should revolutionise electronic commerce and business”. Schmidt has previously demonstrated NFC on Android, and Google has bought Zetawire for its NFC software, but Schmidt stopped short of a predicted announcement on the inclusion of NFC in Android.

Smartphones breed equality

During a meandering press conference after the keynote, Schmidt said that the point of entry for smartphones was important, as “the dispersion of information is an educational opportunity”. He cited the political conflict in Egypt, stating that collaboration technology changes the power dynamic between governments and citizens.

“It’s a future for the masses, not the elite.” he said. “The thing that I am proudest of is that 2 billion people will enter our conversation that we’ve never heard about in the next 2 years. It will change their lives so much more than it changed any of ours. It should give them time back.”

Schmidt said that Microsoft had become Google’s main competitor in search, stating that the Bing search engine “may be too good”, but dismissed any suggestion that Facebook’s ad business was damaging Google’s business model.

He sidestepped a question about rumours that Google is considering buying Twitter, saying simply “We love Twitter, and I love to tweet.” However, he spoke more candidly about the recently announced partnership between Nokia and Microsoft, expressing regret that Nokia had not opted for Google’s operating system.

“We would like them to adopt Android in the future and that offer remains open. We certainly tried,” he said.

Honeycomb, IPv6 and the privacy question

The keynote involved a presentation of a new application called Movie Studio on a Motorola Xoom tablet running Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). Schmidt confirmed that Honeycomb has been designed exclusively for tablets, but said that the next version of Android (thought to be called Icecream Sandwich) would bring together the Honeycomb and Gingerbread releases, to avoid further fragmentation of the operating system.

Schmidt also spoke briefly about Google’s involvement in the IPv6 test flight, scheduled to take place later this year. He said that IPv4 depletion was “one of the great urgent problems,” and that now is the time to deal with it.

He also repeated the mantra that Google can offer a highly tailored and personalised service, as long as users are willing to share their data. This follows recent criticism that Google has little regard for online privacy, and the release of a video last year by Consumer Watchdog, which paints Eric Schmidt as a ‘creepy ice cream man‘.

“With respect to social, if you want to give us your information we can use it to improve your search,” he said. “You have to decide you want to do this – those that do will be able to get even more personal results.”