Like all major technology companies, Google is playing an increasingly important role in our lives as the new coronavirus outbreak continues, including helping people find reliable information in searches, working with the government to conduct virus testing, working with Apple to build contact tracking systems on Android and iOS, and cracking down on misinformation on YouTube,media reported. Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google and its parent company Alphabet, spoke in an exclusive interview about Google’s efforts to diversify its workforce, its long-term plans for the hardware division, the impact of the outbreak on the advertising business and the challenges of telemanagement companies.
Pictured: Sandal Pichai, ceo of Google and its parent company Alphabet
The full interview is the following:
Q: I mainly want to discuss three aspects with you: 1) How does Google respond to the new crown outbreak? 2) How has your company’s business been affected? 3) I’ve talked to a lot of CEOs about how they manage their time, and I believe that managing big companies on a scale like Google will definitely make a big difference. I’d like to explore all of these issues, but there are two big stories about Google that are very important, and I’d like to ask two questions about them first. First, there are media reports that your diversity efforts are over and that the word “diversity” is no longer even used within the company. Is it true?
Pichai: Diversification is a fundamental principle that our company adheres to. Given the size of our manufactured products and the fact that we build localized products for our users, we are committed to the diversity of our workforce. We were one of the first companies to publish a diversity transparency report, which we have regularly updated since then. We have just released our most recent annual diversity report and have made progress in key areas. There is still a long way to go, but it’s really important. What we do is first limited to the company, first of all to see what works and what can be better extended. All I can say is that in terms of size and resources we have invested in, we may now invest more in diversity than at any time in our history.
Q: There’s something interesting about this diversity report, which is that conservative criticism will make you more responsive. Have you ever wondered who criticizes you?
Pichai: In the technology industry, although as a large company, we are still grossly underrepresented in many areas, so we still have a long way to go. Personally, I think that within the company alone, we have certainly worked hard to ensure that the company can accommodate different views, and that no one feels excluded from the company, regardless of their political views.
Q: Another big news story a few days ago was the quiet departure of Mario Queiroz, the pixel team number two, and Marc Levoy, a computer researcher on the Pixel imaging team, and the pixel-branded smartphone sales may not be very good, and is the Pixel business now at the level you want?
Pichai: I’ll comment on the hardware business before I talk about the Pixel. The last few years have been an important consolidation period for us, as we have combined our Google hardware effortwith with Nest, while also absorbing HTC’s mobile division. So it’s a big consolidation and we have a broad portfolio, so it’s definitely an important stage to lay the groundwork. We focus on the long-term growth of the hardware business, which is still difficult today, involving many components that take time to do the right thing, such as silicon chips, monitors, cameras, or anything else. So we will definitely invest in this and set a timetable. I think we have made great progress.
The Pixel 3A, released last year, is one of the highest rated NPS products of our time and is definitely benchmarked externally. So, for me, it’s a clear sign that we’ve come a long way. We just launched the Pixel Buds last week and it’s been a great welcome from consumers. Our Nest Home Hub products are also doing really well.
We’re looking at the long-term goals, not just getting involved in hardware to launch mobile phones, and we have a vision of where computing needs to go. I think it’s really hard to drive this vision without integrating hardware, software, and services. You have to think about the intersection of it, and I think it’s valuable to think and do that.
We are bound to face a challenge. In this very complex field, we are like budding players, so not everything will be smooth sailing. But I’m more excited about our portfolio later this year, especially if I look at the longer-term goals, because we’re working on some deeper efforts that will take three to four years to really show. When they come, I think I’m excited about how they’re shaping the way we’re going.
Participate in the market for mid- to high-end smartphones
Q: I asked you, “How serious are you about hardware?” “Since you created this department, like self-driving cars, every year you’ve said, “It’s going to be a five-year time frame,” but the five-year time frame always seems to be five years behind the end goal. So, when you say you’re going to do this for a long time, do you still think hardware can have a huge sales digital or market impact in five years, or are you looking for something more direct?
Pichai: No, I mean, we obviously need to think about our overall computing effort and what our ecosystem is doing when we think about hardware efforts. I do think it’s important that we build a sustainable business financially. Because I’m focused on the level of investment in hardware needs, including all the technology development you need to do, the supply chain you need to develop, and the investment you need to invest in entering the market. So it’s a sustained deep investment. To do this well, I think it’s important that you have a clear financial sustainability goal.
For me, there are three reasons for this. The first is to move the calculation forward. The second is to expand our ecosystem. Basically everything we did was done well, even from the early days of Android, including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus we worked with and the tablet Snxus 7, Chromebooks and more. We’ve been using our own hardware to move the ecosystem forward. And many of the areas I’m looking at may be something we haven’t done yet, such as the introduction of better smartwatches. Then you’ll find that simply building the underlying platform makes the vision of an expanded ecosystem difficult. The third is to truly build a sustainable hardware business. I think all of this is important. I’m very excited. Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of devices and services, and his team are working closely with Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s vice president of engineering for the Android mobile operating system, and their team, all with a long-term vision. So we’re very engaged now.
Q: In addition to taking the helm of Google, you are now the CEO of Alphabet. How much time do you spend on hardware? Are you looking at the prototype of the device? Is there a meeting only once a week? Or does it take up most of your time?
Pichai: I think it’s just a coincidence that I just discussed our portfolio for next year with these teams this morning.
Q: Is there anything you want to tell us?
Pichai: Osterloh and Rockheimer moved these efforts. But over time, I’ll try to spend my time on something bigger they’re doing.
Q: We’ve tested the Galaxy A51, an entry-level smartphone, and the world’s best-selling smartphone last quarter. My question is, when your phones are coming out, does it feel like they can compete with Samsung’s flagship devices? Is it competitive with the iPhone? Smartphones for $399 or $499 still make up the majority of the market, do you want to get into it? Or do you want to develop large flagship phones to take market share from the high end of the market?
Pichai: That’s where we’ve shown the strongest value proposition, and that’s why I’m taking the Pixel 3A as an example. But that said, if you want to drive computing forward, high-end models are the direction you’re going to get involved in, and that’s where we put a lot of effort into it. So you’ll continue to see us investing at both ends of the smartphone spectrum.
We’ve been concerned and want our ecosystem to work on entry-level devices. I’m passionate about it. But what is certain is that the high-end market is also our large investment area, and that is where the return of the underlying investment lies. Over time, it will accumulate because it will take two to three years to make the investments that you need to do really well and deeper.
Q: Do you see a dramatic change in consumer behavior in buying hardware when everyone is at home? Did everyone go out and buy a Nest camera? Or do they think they don’t need them because they just stay at home anyway? Have you changed anything in this regard?
The impact of the outbreak on the advertising business will continue
Q: Let’s explore Google’s broader business and its progress. Has Google Maps usage dropped?
Pichai: Yes, the outbreak did have a significant impact on the map business. Obviously, because people no longer drive around, it’s clearly having an impact. What’s interesting to me is that in the last two or three weeks we’ve definitely seen users come back looking for local information. So we’re definitely going to see people around us start looking for services again, what’s around, and where they’re open. People are exploring and discovering local services again. So this is a significant change, but it’s not entirely clear what it means.
Q: Let’s talk about your broader business, and obviously most of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. We’ve already felt the impact of changes in the advertising market, and what do you think of Google’s impact? What are you doing to deal with it?
Pichai: I talked about that on the earnings conference call. Compared to January and February, we saw clearly the impact of the outbreak on the advertising market in March. So, to be sure, Google is not immune to the global economic slowdown. In some ways, it’s true in all industries. Therefore, it is clear that we are certainly feeling the full impact as a whole, particularly the tourism industry, is affected.
What we’re interested in is that, historically, search is a performance-oriented business driven by a very high return on investment (ROI) compared to past cycles. As a result, advertisers adjusted, and they quickly reduced their spending. We’re seeing a change in demand, and people are taking advantage of that. So you can see the real-time adjustment of the economy to some extent. So it’s fascinating to see it in this way. But what is certain is that the outbreak has certainly affected our business.
Q: On the earnings conference call, you hinted that things won’t improve any time soon in the next quarter. After all, we will face many difficult challenges during this time. But no matter how long it takes to get out of trouble, do you think the advertising market will be about the same as it was a year ago? Or do you think there will be a fundamental change in your advertising business, or is there a fundamental change in your business in general, as you can see now? Or is it too early to draw conclusions? Is it too hard to predict?
Pichai: There’s a lot going on, and a lot of us are thinking: What’s the trend you’re seeing with the regression mean? What will stay? Will the trip go back to the past? Such. Obviously, depending on the nature of the virus’s spread, it is difficult to predict how long it will last. We usually think that the impact will last for a while. I think it’s the right way to think. As a company, we think it will take a while to recover, and we are planning with that assumption.
I think people’s needs are returning to the necessary needs, and socially it’s about wanting to get to know people. Personally, I can’t wait to get back in time and I hope I can go to a football match or something. Do I want to go to the concert? The answer is yes. So I think human beings are born with a need there. But I think it’s going to take a while for us to get back to normal. So I expect this to be a slow but steady recovery.
Up to 30% of employees at the end of the year or can return to work
Q: What do you think of the effort to reopen? At Google, you say people will work from home until the end of 2020. What do you think of Google? In general, what do you think of the effort to reopen, especially in the United States?
Pichai: We were one of the first companies to ask employees to work from home, in part because I think it’s good for the health and safety of our employees. I think that since a lot of our work can be done at home, it is necessary to maintain a safe social distance. Clearly, the needs of different groups vary widely. We talked earlier about hardware, and of course people can use test equipment and labs, which is really important. You can’t test whether something works in 5G unless you really can do it in that test environment.
As a result, there are big differences between different teams. We will be conservative about the return of the entire company to normalcy. When local regulations allow, I think we might start by allowing 10 to 15 percent of employees to return to work and prioritize those who actually need to stay in the office. That way, we can create an environment where people can really keep a safe social distance, and there are a lot of security measures in place. Just because we’re talking about 10 to 15 percent of employees coming back to work doesn’t mean a lot of people, we can use shifts, and actually working one or two times a week can attract more people.
There are two different people in the world, some people really want to go back to work, but they miss that life very much. Especially at Google, for 20 years, we have genuinely invested in our physical space and the culture it creates in order to get people to work together well. So I think some people will miss this part of the experience, depending on your personal situation. Others want to stay at home in search of more protection. So we’re trying to distinguish them.
But I expect that by the end of this year, we will have 20 to 30 percent of our employees back. What we’re saying is that we think the vast majority of employees may be working from home until the end of the year. But this is a very unstable situation. Of course, if things look better, we’ll adjust our plans appropriately. We want to be a little flexible. Try to really understand what works and what doesn’t work.
Q: Are you thinking about a longer-term plan for the number of people who might work from home or work remotely? Twitter has just announced that it will allow employees to work from home forever, and employees can work from home for as long as they want to. Do you think so? Or are you going to wait and see how things go?
Pichai: I’d like to see more data in this area, so I see it as a research phase, and we’ll see where the data leads us. In some ways, I’m glad Twitter is experimenting with a unique one. So thank you, Jack Dorsey (Twitter CEO), and i’m glad to see what’s going to happen at the end of the spectrum.
In some ways, productivity has gone down, and I don’t know why, most people have been working on projects for the first two months, and they know what they need to do. But the next stage, which is about to begin, is that if you’re designing next year’s product, you’re in the brainstorming phase, and things may get more cluttered. How does this collaboration actually work? It’s hard to understand and do. So we’re trying to understand what works and what’s not. We’re probably conservative about it, and we want to make sure everything goes well. When we get out of the outbreak, we may learn more lessons and have more flexibility.
Double your bet on Google Meet
Q: Google has historically excelled at using its own products. Obviously, this is a moment to use these products in a way that may never be emphasized. You added a gallery view to the video tool Google Meet, which looked like a button that was supposed to be there, but everyone realized it wasn’t actually there, and then it came up again. Google Meet has bigger competitors, and more consumer-centric companies are succeeding, such as Zoom. Does this need to be vigilant for you?
Pichai: This is definitely a very important moment. We hired Javier Soltero, head of Google’s instant messaging application team, a few months ago, and we had a clear perspective. So we know exactly where we want to go, and some efforts are clearly under way. In some ways, when the new corona outbreak hit, we weren’t quite done with all the changes we wanted to make.
I think it’s ironic that the Google Meet team works remotely to make and iterate products to the level they want, which is interesting. Soltero has a long commute, and one of his biggest concerns is the commute when he first joined. Now, he hardly has to worry about it anymore. But this is an important moment. Many schools, many companies are already using Google Meet. So we’re going to double the bet.
Clearly, the outbreak blurs the line between consumers and businesses, and people use products in a variety of environments. So there’s no doubt that we’re taking this opportunity to make Google Meet and Google Chat bigger and more user-like. Obviously, we’re a service provider, but we’re also a platform. As a result, RCS (Communications Services) is continuing to advance. RCS is a place in our company like the United Nations, and we try to bring a group of people together. As people sign up, you’ll see better and better momentum.
So I think all of this is well combined. I’m glad we recalibrated our messaging business, all of which was left to Soltero. He works with Thomas Kurian, head of Google’s cloud team, and the Rockheimer team. So I think we’re going to get to the right place, which makes me feel very excited.
Q: You mentioned RCS. In an age when Facebook says, “We’re going to integrate all our communications products, we’re going to encrypt everything end-to-end,” do you think Google’s strategy of having multiple products in multiple environments is still feasible? Or do you think there needs more consolidation there?
Pichai: Of course we wanted a more integrated, simpler view, but in all cases I saw our platform products being welcomed. Android is part of the open platform stack. I think your door needs an open standard messaging framework. We have to move it out of the sMS era, and for me, this is RCS.
Obviously, we’re going to continue to do that in all cases because I think that’s part of building an open stack. I don’t think that will change. But as far as our services are concerned, I want it to be as simple as possible for people. I think we’ve come a long way compared to Google Meet and Google Chat. Of course, we have Duo. Our original goal was to make Duo serve consumers, while Google Meet and Google Chat served businesses. But now the boundaries are blurred, and they share many common underlying technologies. They’re all built on WebRTC, so there’s a lot in common, and given that there’s a common team operation, hopefully we can iterate more easily. But with some flexibility, I think it’s feasible.
Q: We started talking about cell phones. One of the reasons Apple phones are so sticky is that they’re great communication products. Do you think there’s a connection? Do you need great sticky communication products to attract consumers?
Pichai: I can give an answer from two angles. From a user’s point of view, any Android phone you get always wants a mobile phone-based SMS product. The products and services you want are consistent with the accompanying features that our platform wants to provide, and we are working hard to keep them in line. I think this integration is crucial. So I do think it’s an important part and where Android is always behind. So I think there should be more efforts there.
Technically, different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and different carriers have different RCS solutions, which is one of the biggest reasons for Android fragmentation. This caused real suffering. Therefore, simplification will become a necessary initiative in order to increase productivity, efficiency and simplicity. For these reasons, I think the most important thing is to continue to invest and make the right choices.
avoid answering whether he has apologized.
Q: With regard to the outbreak, I think your team has prepared well. When Trump and his team claimed that “thousands of Google engineers are urgently developing a new coronavirus test ingress site,” I’ve been documenting progress every week. Tell me about that day, do you expect this to happen? The next day, Mr. Trump said, someone on Google called to apologize. Is that true? What happened in those days?
Pichai: After the outbreak, we decided early on that, as a company, we should use our expertise to help do something. That’s why we’ve made extensive efforts to keep in touch with the White House’s New Coronavirus Task Force. There are two fronts of efforts to find out what Google can do to provide more information. Verily is working on a method of large-scale virus testing, with a particular emphasis on off-the-ride testing, with a focus on protecting emergency responders.
Today, Verily’s virus detection has expanded to 86 locations in 13 states, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s obviously going to take more time than most of us expect, but there are a lot of limitations in the process, but I think we’ve come a long way. My view is that we want to do everything we can to help the U.S. government succeed at a time when the global epidemic is raging. So we are trying to play our part in it.
Q: I want to ask you directly, did you call President Trump to apologize?
Pichai: I had discussions with the task force, and the people who spoke were all members of the task force.
Q: We suddenly realized that there was no strict distinction between Google and Verily. So my follow-up question is: Is it clearer now? You’re the CEO of Alphabet, Verily is a subsidiary of Alphabet, and you’re in charge of Google.
Pichai: I think we talked in two areas. I do feel that as a company we have a responsibility to clarify the way we communicate. I don’t think we’ve done a good job of communicating between the two groups, even if they’re always communicating. So I just want to make sure we’re clear in our communication.
Q: So what’s the relationship between Verily and Google now? Do you have any other volunteers working for the Verily project?
Pichai: Yes. Because they all belong to Alphabet, we see it as an area where we can help. So sometimes Google is doing health care, and in fact Verily is doing the same. If we share resources where we need it, there may be a breakthrough in artificial intelligence from Google, which is exactly what Verily uses to commercialize. But on a technical level, we can exchange views. At the regulatory level, we work together to establish a compliance process and establish all frameworks. But I’m also excited about the progress Verily is making.
Q: Do you think it’s still useful to divide and rule, like two separate companies under an umbrella? Or has your thinking changed about the difference between Alphabet’s subsidiary, Verily, and Alphabet’s, Google?
Pichai: In many areas, I’ve found that the difference slyly does really help. Take Waymo, a self-driving car company, which requires a time frame that addresses a very different problem than building a typical Internet product. I like this structural separation, google management teams don’t need to sit down and think about too many broad issues, they can stay more focused. This also allows us to place different bets based on different characteristics and different time frames. Alphabet has created this flexibility, and the potential commonality of all Alphabet’s businesses is that we believe that there must be a deeper technology to work, that is, something based on some basic technology to solve certain problems. This is the potential commonality.
Google is a big concern about the Internet, and you know that if we’re going to solve a completely different problem and allow us to still apply the technology, maybe sharing AI and our data center, etc., you can solve it by having the right structure, the right incentive, and the right way to do it. So I think it’s really helpful to have that flexibility. We created this structure to create this flexibility, and Nest is a good example. More significantly, it is more closely integrated with hardware teams, and it is clear that there is convergence in this regard.
Q: Alphabet has several big health programs, and Verily is just one of them. I think this is the moment when biotechnology and health science take off. Is Verily now fully focused on the new crown outbreak? Or is it just one of many things it’s doing?
Pichai: It’s just one of many things. There are a lot of people there who are doctors and medical staff. Obviously, they feel motivated to help at times like these. So while there is a lot of focus, they are also concerned about long-term diseases like diabetes. So they’re obviously looking at other aspects of health care, and they’re going to continue to do that.
Q: Google is doing a lot of other things around the new corona virus outbreak, what other efforts are there besides building a virus detection website?
Pichai: So far, we have committed more than $1 billion in funding in various ways, including grants to public health organizations, advertising credit to small and medium-sized enterprises, and then working in each country through direct loan schemes for small and medium-sized enterprises by official agencies. We have made efforts in the area of personal protective equipment. In Osterloh’s team, we’ve done a lot of in-depth work on ventilators. Obviously, we support schools with products like Meet, and we offer Chromebooks. So it spans all kinds of efforts. It is clear that the exposure notifications that work with Apple are also helping in contact tracking.
Working with Apple to see the same problem
Q: Isn’t it common for Google and Apple to work together at this level? What’s going on? How did you talk to Tim Cook? How are the two companies working together?
Pichai: It was a great effort. At first, I think we all saw the same problem, we saw the opportunity to do something, and the teams of both companies started to work on it. At the time, we saw that some of the early applications were actually hard to function effectively. So we realized that as platform providers, we really wanted to make these apps easier and make them work on a large scale, provided, of course, with user consent and privacy. The two teams started talking and they saw an opportunity to do better, so Cook and I got in touch, talked, and finally reached a co-operation agreement.
For public health organizations’ planning, we want to give a clear commitment and a framework within which they can actually invest, and we will support it as a platform. The two teams talk several times a week, and we’re talking to public health organizations around the world. You’ll see that in some big countries, they’re working hard to develop services built on Apple and Google technologies. Our goal is to add a toolkit to all the efforts needed to manage the outbreak, and we want to make sure that we create more options.
Q: When you talk to Cook on the phone, do you have a problem that needs to be resolved through consultation, or what decisiondo sq., or what decisions do you both need to make?
Pichai: I want to give an example, when Cook and I talked, the main thing is actually to decide whether to bring the “exposure notification” system directly to market and make it all public, which is earlier than the similar steps that the two companies usually take in such a process. We may often wait for the application to develop and discuss more issues. But we are all aware that, given its public nature, and given the need for responsible dialogue with many social institutions, as part of that, it is important that we make them public as soon as possible, share details and engage in dialogue. So we basically made this decision together.
Q: You and I have discussed Google’s responsibilities in artificial intelligence and making sure that it is ethical. In this case, you are at the center of the outbreak, in the middle of a large number of different countries, which have their own WHO. What do you think of your responsibilities as Google’s CEO in this outbreak? Because in a way, it’s up to the government level, reaching a social contract with users, and Google shouldn’t even be seen as a technology company.
Pichai: That’s a big challenge we’re dealing with, so it’s important. I want to do everything we can and always realize that we are a company, a private company, going through a very public moment. We obviously have products that people rely on, so we do a good job of providing high-quality information and handling them properly. This is the best place we can do.
In addition to this, all these efforts are closely related to supporting our employees and supporting our communities. Then there’s the longer-term effort because we have a deep technical foundation that we can use to support healthcare organizations and so on. I think it’s an important moment for big companies to step up. But I think you need to do this in a structure where you realize that you are a private company and are only a small part of the huge value chain that solves the problem.
Q: This is an interesting statement because some of the problems you are addressing are unprecedented. We’re going to use the Bluetooth system on everyone’s phone to send exposure notifications. I think, historically, this is a new idea. I don’t think people have had this experience before. Obviously, it has a bunch of new problems to solve. On the other hand, there are some very old questions to solve: Do people have reliable information? Can they trust their leaders? Can they trust the company they rely on? Google apparently provides a lot of information in search and YouTube, both of which are spreading a lot of false information. Facebook recently announced the creation of a oversight committee on its platform, do you think similar measures are needed to manage the platform?
Pichai: This is the foundation of our company’s survival. Searches are designed across the network to display the highest quality information. So this is something we’ve been thinking about for a long time. Clearly, it is certain that the challenges have become more complex and difficult. As a result, we are constantly looking for new ways. I follow with great interest what everyone in this field is doing. On YouTube, for example, for the past four years, we’ve definitely relied on outside experts for information classification. We work with counter-extremism groups on the issue of violent extremism. Therefore, we use their expertise to help shape our policies. Last year, when we developed our hate and harassment policy, we consulted with many organizations.
So I think relying on the expertise of experienced experts, other nonprofits and governments is a natural way we want to deal with our work. In my opinion, whether you have a supervisory committee or not, I’ll look at what I’ve learned from it and I’ll definitely look at that. I think it’s important to understand that. We’re going to be flexible, and if we find something that works, we’ll actively adopt it. But I think we are also really trying to bring in external ideas in terms of policy definitions.
Squeeze time out to read and think
Q: I’d like to ask how you manage Google. As Ceo of Google, you’re obviously managing a giant company remotely, and you’re dealing with government and your own employees, how do you manage your time now?
Pichai: I try to take parallel measures. On the one hand, we focused on dealing with the outbreak, so I spent a lot of time on these kinds of things. At the same time, I want to make sure that the company is operationally focused on continuing to pursue all ongoing efforts. So I’m making sure that our meetings are really back to normal, which is why I met this morning while reviewing next year’s product plans. Although this is only a general meeting.
Q: Did you have anything to surprise you at that meeting?
Pichai: The timetable is very difficult to set, and the disruption from the outbreak is a bit worrying. So it’s not surprising when you find it hard to set a schedule. That’s the difference in this meeting.
Q: So you’re having a meeting at a normal pace and it feels normal. What’s changed in the way you manage your time?
Pichai: I’m actually talking to other people who used to work from home, and what I hear is, “There’s almost no difference between working from home and not working from home.” But I think it’s harder for IT practitioners. I miss driving and thinking. On the other hand, work is more efficient because you can browse what we’re doing and it might take more time.
But I miss this pre-transition life, and the space for quiet thinking. So for me, it’s definitely something I need to improve on. But I’m managing my time. I know i want to spend a certain percentage of my time on the company’s main businesses. In fact, I look back every three months to see if I spend my time on what I want to spend. I’ve always done this. So if there’s any deviation, I’ll take a step back and think, “What can I do to make sure I’m back in the way I want to kill time?” “It’s a process that keeps repeating: sometimes you look back in horror, realize you’re wrong, and correct it.
Q: One of the questions I’m very concerned about is, when do you work? It sounds like you’ve spent a lot of time working and thinking during these transitions. How do you schedule your time now?
Pichai: I try to force time on my calendar, especially for reading and thinking, even though it’s hard to do. But it also gives me time to watch the Galaxy A51. I think freeing up time to think is a tool I have, but drawing the line is what I’m doing. I’m sure I’ll get into this habit, which I’ve never thought of before. Thanks to those cooking videos on YouTube, I learned to make pizza from scratch last week, and it turned out to be good. So things like this are helpful.
Q: As the crisis evolves, what are the main change indicators that you are looking at and ignored by others as you look ahead to next year? Maybe it’s unique to Google, maybe it’s widely used. But what are the signals you see? You can get a lot of signals, what do you see that signals are coming, either way?
Pichai: Is this really a shift in user mode, trying to understand that telemedicine is real? Can it last? Or is it just something people do, will people really go back to the usual way they do things? Look at the recovery pattern and see where you really see the difference. We are very interested in how the work culture has changed. How will travel and meetings change in the long run? Outbreaks can have a positive impact on things that perform well because of them, as well as on situations that must adapt to changes in the outbreak.
Education is an important area of our concern, and I know of all that you have always been passionate about rural broadband and connectivity. For me, distance learning does find these gaps. So I think it’s been a long journey to figure out how we can achieve these goals through connectivity and computation, and we’re working on that. But I think it’s great to try to capture the moment things change, to try to be data-driven and adapt to change. I do think these moments are also an opportunity to build the future. History shows that in times like these, because many people are faced with a lot of problems, entrepreneurs rethink the problem, solve the problem. So it’s definitely worth paying attention to.
Q: Do you think things are different around the world? You can access large amounts of data from all over the world, and some parts of the world are in different states. What do you see around the world, and will they give you the basis that things will change in the long term?
Pichai: One thing stands out: I think it’s unique that in our lifetimes, we’ve never seen a global moment like this, and everyone seems to be going through a common experience. So this is one of the few positives. It feels like a moment when the whole human race is united.
But what’s certain is that when you look at some parts of Asia, places that have experienced blockades and reopened, we do see some changes, such as when people get used to ordering online, and some of the effects seem to be preserved. We see this trend. But I see more in common, and for me, it shows the commonalities of human nature than the differences between us, so I see more common altogether.