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Google says desktop PC is three years from 'irrelevance'

'We succeed because we celebrate failure'

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Google's European sales chief says that desktop PCs will be "irrelevant" in three years.

This week, as reported by Silicon Republic, Google Europe boss John Herlihy told a "baffled" conference audience that very soon the smartphone will completely eclipse the desktop. "In three years time, desktops will be irrelevant," he said. "In Japan, most research is done today on smart phones, not PCs."

Like Eric Schmidt at last month's Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Herlihy was trying to say that Google's number one concern is now the mobile market. "Mobile makes the world’s information universally accessible. Because there’s more information and because it will be hard to sift through it all, that’s why search will become more and more important. This will create new opportunities for new entrepreneurs to create new business models – ubiquity first, revenue later.”

But Eric Schmidt did not say that the desktop PC would be irrelevant in three years.

He did say that Google doesn't want to turn wireless carriers into dumb pipes - which is arguably more ridiculous. Google's one great achievement over the past few years is its carefully executed plan to loosen the carriers' vice-grip on their networks. This certainly benefits Google - but it also benefits Joe Netizen.

With his speech in Dublin, Herlihy went on to discuss what he sees as the reasons for Google's "business success". In his mind, Google succeeds because of its "relentless brutality and execution," its determination to hire the best people, and its decision to "celebrate failure".

"Here’s an analogy – the Roman legions used to send out scouts in different directions," he said. "If a scout didn’t return, the army didn’t head in that direction. We seek feedback at every opportunity on something – we either kill it, adjust it or redeploy resources.

"When we build something we strive for ubiquity in usage and adoption. That helps us understand how customers react and then we build a revenue model."

Of course, you could argue that Google has built only one successful revenue model - selling online ads against keywords - and that it has spent the rest of its time trying to shoehorn the same model into as many new services as it can. But it's much more fun to chuckle at the desktop PC bit. ®

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