Matt Brittin, VP for Google Northern and Central Europe, gave a whirlwind tour of what Google are up to in the world of the internet.
Framing his talk with insights on the speed of change being seen in the sector, Matt used the intimate setting to provide a rare insight into how Google are thinking about the best way to compete in the online space. His technical know how was clear as his presentation flipped seamlessly between his laptop and phone in order to deftly illustrate the variety of the amazing technology that the company are harnessing to power this change, whilst retaining their consistent commitment to free services and user-focused functionality.
The fat fingered members of the audience were relieved to see Google are optimising mobile to be as fast and easy as your desktop, but in many ways even simpler and more intuitive. Through the power of your smart phone, Google can know where you are, it can hear you speak, and the more you use its search platforms and information service the better it will tailor and improve your results through this repeated use. Which sums up Google's view of the world. It wants to capitalise on the technology that is being developed and deployed over the whole of the internet to improve our daily lives within their suite of services. Moreover, Matt's advice, drawing upon Google's willingness to embrace mobile ahead of the pack was you should always cannibalise your own core business, otherwise somebody else will!
Though teaching my phone to book my nearest Chinese restaurant in fluent Mandarin is fun, many of us had signed up to hear what impact Google will have on our working lives, so Matt also showcased the business focused tools which are being built to mine the wealth of data they collect each day from their global user base - a subject which unsurprisingly raised many concerned, and at times pointed, questions in the room during the Q&A. From YouTube's content ID, to Google Trends, to the pre-roll ads on videos that can be skipped after 5 seconds and the advertiser only pays if you watch the whole thing - Google are focused on building tools that generate consumer, trend and behavioural insights to inform and empower decision makers at a corporate level, whilst continually improving the commercial model for both sides. Though some members of the audience argued that in the digital space, if you're not paying for services, then you're the product, Google's view is that they retain the user experience at the heart of everything they do. In order to pay for this they provide full transparency and choice to consumers who use the free, open-source versions of their services, but encourage enthusiasts to log in and receive even more on the implicit understanding that they will ''pay'' for the privilege by allowing access to their data. Matt's responses may not have silenced every critic in the room, but he certainly reminded us that Google executives are more than happy to take it on the chin!
Matt sounded a happy final note by reminding us of how far the world has come in his five years at the helm, and the extraordinary range of opportunities, companies and individuals now operating in the digital space, many of them here in the UK. The internet age is happening now and his lasting message to us, was to make sure we get involved.