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Google makes bid to be a media mogul and PC doctor

Emergency! Paging Robin Williams

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CES Pop quiz, hotshot! You're a billionaire who struggles with public speaking. What do you do? What do you do?

Hire Robin Williams, of course.

Google co-founder Larry Page proved just how smart he is during a keynote speech today here at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). He saved an otherwise tedious presentation by bringing out Williams and letting the comedian run wild.

Williams started with a joke about the Adult Entertainment Expo taking place at the same time as CES.

"There is more silicon in those tits than in all the hardware at this convention."

And then moved to the CES booths with a jab at Asian accents and culture.

"Is this your first time to come to the Asian booth? Please, sit on the laptop dancer."

And then he imagined what it would be like if your TV and computer could really communicate.

"Porn again," asks the TV. "I talked to your computer. I know what you like."

Before Williams hit the stage, Page did manage to announce some new products.

First off, Google revealed an addition to its video search – payments. Google secured nice wins by signing up CBS and the NBA to its service, along with a number of other content makers. Customers will be able to pay around $1.99 for CBS shows such as CSI and Survivor and download any NBA game 24-hours after it has been played.

This set-up mimics what Apple has done with iTunes and ABC.

Google, however, does have a unique twist on its video service. Any company can put their content up for sale at any price. (Five cents is the minimum charge for a download.) Google takes a few pennies from the sale, and the content makers take most of the cash.

Google has created its own DRM (digital rights management) system for the service but will support rival systems as well, Page said. Not that the world needed another DRM mechanism.

On the software front, Page unveiled Google Pack.

This service combines the Google toolbar, desktop, and earth software with a special edition version of Norton anti-virus, the Acrobat reader, Firefox browser, a spyware blocker and the Picasa image management package. Google will deliver this entire package via an easy-to-use interface and do so for free. In addition, Google has made a deal with the software makers to ensure they don't flood your PC with advertisements or pop-ups.

Google was inspired to deliver this package as a way of helping users keep their systems safe and up-to-date, according to Page.

"Having the right software on your PC is as easy as going to the Google homepage," he said.

(You can find more information at pack.google.com)

Away from these products, Page made an impassioned – albeit bizarre – plea for the world to unite around a single standard for plugs. Not just power plugs but Ethernet cables, USB cables and stereo cables.

If you don't quite get it, don't worry. We don't either.

Page actually called for some type of single cable to be created that delivered power and connected devices and brewed coffee.

"Why can't your Bluetooth cell phone start your car?" he asked. "Why can't you use it to unlock your door instead of carrying your keys?

"I am amazed that we don't have devices like this. The reason we don't is that we lack standards to do it."

Well, that and keys don't run out of batteries.

Page admitted that cable standards "are a personal passion" and urged the CES audience and Google staffers to solve our cabling crisis. He envisions a day when consumers buy a single, high-end power supply that can connect to any device and have its voltage dialed up or down as needed.

"And consumers can pay for it instead of the device makers, and (the device makers) will have higher margins."

Sweet.

To his credit, Page held a very long question and answer session with the CES audience and had Williams on stage for comic relief. Page was refreshingly straight forward with his answers – a rarity at these usually scripted events.

Google will work to get more of its software ready for the Mac and other operating systems, he said. Then, he dodged questions about the Google PC rumors – somewhat weird given Google's strong denial of the idea – and avoided discussing other possible future products.

And Williams?

He dodged nothing, especially a poor Frenchman who got hammered by the comedian after asking when the Google Video purchase service would reach France.

"We have the Maginot video which is crazy, and the Germans always go around it," Williams said. "(The French) have a Disneyland with a Minnie Mouse who has armpit hair."

Don't get your croissants in a twist just yet. Williams took a shot at the US as well.

"We have an English to English translation (service) for the President that is working very well." ®

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