Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel offered wildly differing views on the state of the technology industry last night at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference. During their after-dinner panel, the tone remained amiable, but Thiel, in particular, managed to get some memorable jabs in.
For example, when talking about Google, Thiel said the “intellectually honest thing to do” would be to admit that “Google is no longer a technology company.” After all, he notes that Google has $50 billion in cash. Why isn’t it investing all of that money in new technology? Thiel’s conclusion: The company out of new ideas and is coasting on search.
Schmidt’s response: First, that there are “limits that are not cash” such as recruiting, real estate, and government regulation. He also pointed out a few examples outside of search where Google innovations seem to be paying off — Chrome, Android, and the company’s enterprise tools.
The argument over Google was indicative of a larger divide. Schmidt offered a positive view of what technology has accomplished in the last few decades, and what it will accomplish in the near future, arguing that it will allow people in the developed world to lead “extraordinarily long lives that are very productive” while improving the lives of those in developing nations too.