Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Peter Wilson Talk Summary.

I attended a talk yesterday by Peter Wilson, Engineering Director, Google, Kirkland, WA.

Here are some observations from his talk.

Peter comes off as an uber-nerd. He is more comfortable answering techie questions rather than fielding business-related questions. He even said that he was more a technical person rather than a businessman. He was dressed in what could be described as a Hawaii shirt with ridiculous cowboy boots. Funnily, the audience was what you would expect- typical white-shirt, button down, $75 tie, downtown Seattle crowd. He has not watched TV since 1999.

Peter came to Google via Microsoft and, therefore, symbolizes the fight between the two titans. He obviously sees Google as being better positioned to deal with the coming revolution in software and online services. He sees Microsoft as still being aligned with the old model of selling software in boxes whereas Google is into online services. He also sees Google as an innovative giant while he sees Microsoft being mired in its old ways.

His main point was that the software industry was changing in a big way. The early focus on productivity was giving way to relationships and social networks. He clearly saw leveraging advertising opportunities on social networking sites such as Facebook as one of the major growth vectors of Google.

The audience was very interested in the much-vaunted Google culture. Yes, the food is good. Peter described the culture as chaotic by design. As many as eight people shared an office. Employees were encouraged not just to complain, but to fix problems. Google continually conducted experiments and learned from it. They really viewed themselves as being engaged in iterative development. Interestingly, Google makes it easy for managers to visit other sites and interact with developers. The only price one has to pay is to give a tech talk.

Peter pumped the Open Handset Alliance. He griped about how the mobile industry really worked on closed protocols while the Web had moved to an open API/open standards world.

Other interesting things-

- Hardly anyone uses the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button. But, if you take it off, people feel dissatisfied.

- Peter pumped mashups. He seems to love iLike and brought this one up as well.

Overall, I wished the talk had been more substantive. I still got a lot out of it and hope to see more of Peter!