The Incredible Arrogance of Being Eric Schmidt

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In wide ranging interview with Peter Kafka of the Digital Memo Blog, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founder Sergey Brinn did their best to give people the impression that Google was run by a couple of arrogant SoBs. Whether it was purchasing Android or suggesting that Google could never be evil because of the fundamental trust between Google and its users, they came off as cavalier and pretentious. (But to their credit, they weren't afraid to mention Microsoft by name or admit that Bing is good for competition, unlike Steve Ballmer who refused to name Google in an interview last week.)

See No Evil

Without a doubt my favorite part of the interview was where Schmidt suggested that it was simply not possible for Google to be "evil," whatever the heck that means, because users wouldn't stand for it. Here's what Schmidt said to Peter Kafka (in a quote that is positively Kafkaesque) when he asked him "Why won't you be like Microsoft in regard to antitrust?":

"If we went into an “evil room” and had an “evil light” shined on us, and we then behaved in an “evil” way we would be destroyed… there is a fundamental trust between Google and its users.”

Seriously, Eric? An evil room with an evil light? My goodness that's some heavy load of crap he's throwing there, isn't it? I have to admit I use a lot of Google tools (I'm writing this post in Google Docs), but do I trust Google to stay away from the evil light? Not so much.

Million Here, Million There

And as though that weren't enough, his co-founders can casually throw around a million here and there and he doesn't even know until after the fact. That they talk about it so casually in an interview is beyond belief to me. 'Oh by the way, Eric old boy, just bought Android for a few mill. Forgot to mention it old chap.' Here's how Schmidt describes it in the interview:

One day Larry and Sergey bought Android, and I didn’t even notice. Think about the strategic opportunities that has created. Sergey found Google Earth one day while he was surfing on the Web. And then he walked into my office and told me he bought them. “And I said, “for how much, Sergey?” And it turned out to be a few million.

Ya, a few million. Who would have noticed, right? My wife came home the other day and said she bought a company. I said, "How much, honey?" And it turned out to be a few million. Oh no bother then. Thanks.

When asked about Google employees feelings of entitlement around salary and perks, Brinn had this to say:

We cut down on snacks, etc to “reset expectations” re: entitlement.

Wow. That's some tough love Sergey, eh?. You mean employees have to actually pay for their food? Whoo Boy, you guys are really are hard core.

And these are just three examples. I encourage you to read the whole interview to get the whole picture. These comments show a real lack of connection to what most of us face in the real world on a daily basis. There is a sense of entitlement and arrogance that comes shining through throughout the interview. Let's face it though, whether it's Ballmer, Jobs or Schmidt, it's tough living in that end of the stratosphere, and arrogance just seems to go with the territory.