CNBC Exclusive: CNBC's Maria Bartiromo Interviews Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Today on "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo" (Transcript Included)
When: Wednesday, April 30th at 4PM ET
Where: CNBC's "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo"
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt. During the interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, Dr. Schmidt discusses Google's growth and U.S. slowdown, the possibility of a Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo!, online advertising growth rates, Google's European stronghold and Google's stock, among other topics.
All references must be sourced to CNBC's "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo."
Interview: Dr. Eric Schmidt of Google
MARIA BARTIROMO, host: Eric, thanks so much for joining us.
Dr. ERIC SCHMIDT: Thank you for having me on again.
BARTIROMO: Let's begin with this debate that seems to be brewing on Wall Street about growth. So the company grew 46 percent in the third quarter, 40 percent in the fourth quarter, 30 percent in the next quarter, and then sequentially 1 1/2 percent when you look quarter to quarter. How insulated would you say is Google to the economic slowdown or recession?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, the numbers you're using are year over year, quarter over quarter in the US. Globally, of course, we had good growth, and the US numbers are masked by the fact that, a year ago, we had a very strong quarterly growth of that quarter. So the real growth rate in the US is good, although overall growth rates are slowing, as they have for years. Just because of the scale and size of what we operate. The business has continued to be good.
BARTIROMO: OK, because when you get to a certain size, it's really hard to sort of grind down more market share when you've already got 70 percent or get that much bigger, given the fact that the company is getting--you're a large business.
Dr. SCHMIDT: But we have--we have multiple ways in which we grow. Of course, more people use the Internet, more people are using electronic commerce on the Internet, more people are clicking on the ads, and also our ad technology is getting much, much better. And it's really any one of those will push us over the top in any given quarter; sometimes they all come together. We don't seem to be very sensitive to macroeconomics, at least right now. We don't seem to be very sensitive to things like recession. But we're very sensitive to how quickly do we bring in the new product improvement or something like that.
BARTIROMO: The comScore data took everybody's estimates down, and this whole debate about whether it was accurate or not. How can you ensure that the growth occurs, even if people pull in their spending, if perhaps advertisers slow down on the budgets? I mean, is it fair to say that the hypergrowth of 2004 to '07 is--has been seen?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, as I said, if you think about it over a five- or six- or seven-year period, growth rates are slowing, as they have to. So I don't think it's a big shift. It's not, you know, today it was one way and tomorrow it's another. In our case, we focus on quality, and we have a very simple model. If we show fewer ads that are more targeted, those ads are worth more. So we're in this strange situation where we show a smaller number of ads and we make more money because we show better ads. And that's the secret of Google.
BARTIROMO: Yes, that's what Mary Meeker was saying. She's saying, `Look, it could be that they're actually benefiting from a recession because they're monetizing the ads better.'
Dr. SCHMIDT: There's been--you you know, if you were running a business today, you would be looking very carefully at where is your marketing spend going? And we think that you'll choose to put your marketing spend on the thing that's most measurable, the thing that's most, you know--because you can always defer a branding campaign that may or may not work, but you want to get those customers and those leads right now, and that's what we do.
BARTIROMO: Let's talk about DoubleClick. You acquired the company. How's the integration going?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, it just started. It started about three weeks ago. And what we're doing is we're taking their products and our products and integrating them so that people have better tools, advertisers have more, literally, ads, and publishers have more spots that they can publish information into. So it's the combination of all that that we've been waiting for so long, and it's under way. It takes six months to get all the products together.
BARTIROMO: So you think that the integration process will take about six months?
Dr. SCHMIDT: It's on the order of that. And, of course, at Google, everything is a try. We try this, we try that, we see what works. The early indications are that we'll be largely complete within that period.
BARTIROMO: It's no secret that Google owns search, but what about the display ads? Is it--is it fair to say that's sort of up for grabs? You know, you've got DoubleClick, Microsoft has aQuantis. It's up for--up for grabs, that part of the business.
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, it's fair to say that that Google is not the leader in display ads, but our customers want to be able to purchase text ads and display ads and other advertising in one purchasing bundle, and the combination of the tools that we're developing, plus the DoubleClick integration acquisition and so forth, allows us to offer a single product for those advertisers. So we think that will help us with our display ads competitiveness. We think our technology is better. And so really now it's a question of earning those customers' respect and knowledge.
BARTIROMO: So how do you ensure that that was actually the right acquisition and not just go it alone, do it on your own?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, we had tried that. But the customers really liked the DoubleClick product, and in our surveys we concluded that in one of these--this was one of those cases where another company had simply built a better product, which is why we went forward with the acquisition.
BARTIROMO: Tell me what you're doing with Yahoo! in terms of testing. On the earnings call last time, you said you're setting up ads there. How's it going? What's involved?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, the long and short of it is that we did a test for about two weeks, which has since ended, where Yahoo! took a small percentage of their ads and replaced them by ours. We did this as part of a commercial conversation, which I obviously cannot go into, but it's one of the strategic options that we believe Yahoo! is considering at this time.
BARTIROMO: Now, of course, after that, I guess the Department of Justice announces that it's, you know, doing an inquiry about this. Have you heard from the Department of Justice on this?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, again, without going into the specifics, you should expect that in all of these possible transactions, all of the regulatory bodies will be reviewing them. If there were an acquisition of Yahoo!, for example, the Department of Justice would also be doing a review. And the anti-trust laws allow the government--and I think properly so--to look at both commercial deals as well as acquisitions.
BARTIROMO: What kind of a combination would you like to see with Yahoo!? What kind of a partnership would you like to see?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Oh, well, we actually enjoyed working with Yahoo!. We also compete with them. They're a well run and, I think, impressive company. We've primarily been concerned about the possibility of a Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo! because of Microsoft's history and because of the assets that Yahoo! has are quite valuable. And we actually think that in the wrong hands, they could be used in the wrong way.
BARTIROMO: What do you mean, Microsoft's history?
Dr. SCHMIDT: I think people are aware of the anti-trust trial from 10 years ago. Microsoft has a long history in that area.
BARTIROMO: Yeah, you can bet, I guess, who tipped off the DOJ about the phone call that was made, Steve Ballmer or somebody from that side.
So what do we know about Microsoft and Yahoo!? Tell me this. I mean, I know that, you know, we're waiting on possible news from Microsoft, possibly, a hostile--we don't know what's going to happen next. But what kind of a challenge would Microsoft/Yahoo! be for Google?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, today we actually do not know what's going on. We read in the press that there's discussions and we'll see what they decide to do. If they go ahead and the merger's ultimately successful, it would be possible for Microsoft to integrate some of the properties and essentially eliminate consumer choice, particularly in electronic mail, instant messaging, the things where they have 80 or 90 percent market share, and that's a sweet spot for Microsoft in its ability to eliminate choice.
BARTIROMO: Mm-hmm. And, of course, Google has been getting all these new killer apps, whether it's Gmail or Maps or, you know, spreadsheets. Ultimately is the game to compete direct, head on, with Microsoft?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, Google is actually trying to be an innovator, and we're always concerned about competition. We have found that if we can simply invent a brand-new product that really solves a problem that really does matter to you, we can get your business, we can get your attention, we can get your traffic and your customers or what have you. We're trying in a new thing called cloud computing to offer very powerful Web services that do the common things--e-mail, word processing and so forth--where the data's kept in the cloud, it's kept by somebody else, it's managed by professionals. You don't need to worry about where you keep all that information. We like that model a lot. We're getting traction. It is a competitive threat to other companies, but we think it's a technological breakthrough.
BARTIROMO: How will you respond if Microsoft goes hostile?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, a lot will depend on whether their strategy is successful. In the short term, we have pointed out the possibility of a bad outcome, but it really depends on what happens in the hostile.
BARTIROMO: Do you have any sense of how these things go? I mean, can they go in the open market, buy the stock, and then just create a proxy battle?
Dr. SCHMIDT: All I know is what I've read in the press, which is that essentially you replace the board and you force--you force the deal.
BARTIROMO: Let me ask you about YouTube and MySpace. YouTube has these phenomenal growth rates. What do you think is behind that?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Video is powerful. And it's amazing. You know, we started off with Mentos and the other sort of fun videos, and now people, because they have so many digital cameras, are essentially uploading everything. Furthermore, we're beginning to see glimpses of significant professional content on YouTube. People are using it--because there's such a large reach, they're learning how to reach that audience. We're working but have not yet in my view gotten a breakthrough around monetization. So while we have lots and lots of traffic and we have lots and lots of interesting and creative people and all sorts of controversies--we're blocked in countries, so on and so on--I don't think we've quite figured out the perfect solution of how to make money, and we're working on that. That's our highest priority this year.
BARTIROMO: Which is a huge priority, clearly. A lot of people feel like this is an amazing opportunity for you. So, as far as monetizing that business on YouTube, do you think that takes a year? Does it take the next five years? What's your time frame on that?
Dr. SCHMIDT: We believe the best products are coming out this year. And they're new products. They're not announced. They're not just putting in-line ads in the things that people are trying. But we have a number--and, of course, Google is an innovative place. The Yahoo! team are trying various new forms of advertising, ones which are much more participative, much more creative, much more--much more interesting in and of themselves. Google believes that advertising itself has value. The ads literally are valuable to consumers. Not just to the advertisers, but the consumers.
BARTIROMO: They want to look at them.
Dr. SCHMIDT: When they're targeted. When they're the right ad for what you're doing or what you care about.
BARTIROMO: Mm-hmm. But, you know, it gets me to MySpace. Some people feel like, when you look at the MySpace part of the business, that's really where people are looking at, or feeling a bit of an economic downturn. Let me ask you about that. The deal involving revenue promises, is that going to impact margins in the coming two years?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Not materially in that sense. We have pointed out, and I'll repeat again, that the whole social networking space has been harder for us to monetize--that is, develop advertising businesses again--than some of the other--than some of the other spaces that we're in. It has to do what people are doing. When you think about it, you're in a social network, you're looking at people's photos, you're figuring out where your friends are. You're not as likely to be purchasing a new car at the same time or purchasing clothes or purchasing a book or what have--whatever business that you're in. So the development of the advertising tools and techniques, literally the platform, has been more difficult than we have thought. But we're working on it, and we're hopeful.
BARTIROMO: You've got $12 billion in cash right now?
Dr. SCHMIDT: A little more than that.
BARTIROMO: What are your plans for that money? A lot of people say, `Look, the company's doing well. Growth is still continuing very strongly, global in particular. Why not pay a dividend out? Why not buy back stock?
Dr. SCHMIDT: We love watching that cash sit in a well-managed bank and not get lost.
BARTIROMO: So you could categorically rule out, no dividend coming?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, first this: We never rule anything out. But right now we're happy to let the cash accumulate. The cash represents a strategic option for the future. As you know, we had the luxury of entering the wireless auction. And we did not win the auction, but our financial resources allowed us to credibly and seriously enter an auction for 4.65 billion. Couldn't have done that without the cash.
BARTIROMO: What did you get out of that, though, Eric?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, from a corporate perspective, we participated in something important. From a consumer perspective, we know that our participation helped in making sure that the networks remained open. So consumers get choices. What's better than that?
BARTIROMO: Yeah, and the FCC was happy about that.
Mobile. A lot of people say mobility is where it's at. You've said, actually, I've heard you on conference calls saying that this is one of the big priorities for the company. How do you envision this? Tell me what you're looking for.
Dr. SCHMIDT: First place, everyone I know, everyone you know carries a mobile phone. And it's true in every country.
BARTIROMO: And I'm not carrying my PC, by the way.
Dr. SCHMIDT: And most people in most developed countries have a roughly 100 percent coverage of mobile phones. So it really is a tremendous phenomenon. Over the next three or four years, there'll be more than another billion or so mobile phones added. Eventually our numbers indicate that there'll be five or so billion mobile phones in a world of six billion or so. People, this is a phenomenon. It's an unprecedented reach, even greater than, for example, television, or even electricity in some cases. So that's a platform that we can exploit. Our mobile phone, both search traffic as well as advertising is growing very rapidly, and we think people will do more and more interesting things in mobile phones. And, I mean, small phones, big phones, big screens, things that don't look like a phone, things which are mobile.
Furthermore, the telecommunications industry is helping because they're deploying billions of dollars of literally excess data capacity so these things will have fast networks wherever I go. One of the greatest things for me is whenever I fly somewhere, I open up and I open up my iPhone or my BlackBerry, and, boom, there's everything in my world as I've landed in a country I've never been in. It's a remarkable achievement.
BARTIROMO: Yeah. What needs to happen before we actually get to that world that you're talking about? In other words, do we need to see the providers create different screens? I mean, do you need a larger screen to access some of this data? How do we get there?
Dr. SCHMIDT: Well, one of the problems is we haven't figured out a way to change finger sizes. We just haven't...
Dr. SCHMIDT: There's no solution to that.