Google’s Schmidt On The State Of The Mobile Phone: ‘It’s Like Magic’

Has Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) upstaged Google (NSDQ: GOOG) at this year’s Mobile World Congress? Almost without exception, reviewers have praised Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 series — but on Tuesday Google got its own chance in the spotlight as CEO Eric Schmidt took the keynote stage. Schmidt’s speech was thinky; holding a piece of paper with his notes, he referred to the rise of cloud computing and faster connectivity speeds as driving mobile adoption. “A device that is not connected is not interesting, it is literally lonely. An application that does not leverage the cloud isn’t going to wow anybody,” he said. “It’s like magic. All of a sudden there are things you can do that we’ve never even (thought of) because of this convergence.”

The politeness lasted only so long. During the question and answer session following his remarks, one person asserted that Google wanted to turn the operators into “dumb data pipes.” The questioner went on: “You see the operator as the data supplier, you’re the one with the service.” Schmidt fired back, saying, “I disagree with your premise completely” and asking the man to explain himself. “I feel very strongly that we depend on the successful business of the operators,” Schmidt said. “We need advanced sophisticated networks.” Later on, yet another member of the audience asked Schmidt whether five years from now a mobile phone user would “feel like a Vodafone/T-Mobile customer or a Google customer.” Schmidt responded “both.’

As for news, the company announced that its search by voice feature would now be available in German; in addition, Google said that ‘Goggles’ — its search by picture function — would soon be able to take translation into account (Take a picture of a menu in German with your phone and text shows up on the screen with the words in English). Schmidt also referred to the growth of the Android platform; “We’re now shipping more than 60,000 Android devices per day and that number has doubled over the last quarter,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt never referred to Microsoft and its big announcement. But when he referred to the rise of cloud computing he laid out a list of companies he said were leaders. Redmond was notably missing.