Heard in Davos 2009: Dispatches from the Conference

Taking The Google Car To The Airport


The best thing about roaming around WEF is hearing snippets of conversations that you just know sound so much more exciting than they really are.

Google Headquarters

Here's an example from the lobby of the Belvedere Hotel, a popular off-site spot for participants.

A venture capitalist says to the director of TiVo: "I got a call from (Google's) Larry Page this morning, he wants to talk electric vehicles."

Given the clout that Google still has in tech and the broad economy — and the eccentricities of its founders — I'm thinking Google Car. A fleet of electric vehicles that can map your journey and answer search queries suddenly replacing the Big Three. Detroit moves west.

The mood at the Belvedere was much more subdued than last year. Lots of people were saying goodbye and having this kind of exchange:

"How you getting back to Zurich?"

"Oh, we all hired a bus."

"Yeah. I miss the Google jet."

Maybe they can catch the Google electric jet next year.

Where's the Star of the Show?

Conversations from conference hallways to the shuttle buses to one of Davos' many pizza restaurants have had more than the economic crisis in common. Nearly all mention President Barack Obama.

An incumbent US president has never come to Davos. Most think that politically this one  couldn't be seen leaving the country a week after inauguration at a time of crisis. But just as many still wish he had shown up.

A Davos panel on how the new White House administration will handle the crisis didn't have a US representative.

But the mood in Davos outside the conference has switched. People actually seem pretty hopeful about what Obama may be able to achieve.

A frame store near the apartment where I am staying even had a painting of him in the window.