Eric Schmidt

AGE: 47

CLAIM TO FAME: Served as chairman and CEO of Novell Inc. from 1997 to 2001. Prior to Novell, he was chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems Inc., involved with the development of Java. Before joining Sun in 1983, he was a researcher at the Computer Science Lab at Xerox Corp.'s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and held positions at Bell Laboratories and Zilog.

WHAT HE'S DOING NOW: CEO of Google Inc. in Mountain View, Calif.

His first fascination with networked devices started as a boy, playing with electric trains. Today, Google CEO Eric Schmidt still considers the interconnectedness of networks the biggest technology influence of his lifetime.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google Inc.
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Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google Inc.
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"You'd think I'd learn. I always assume networks are static, but they never are," says the former CEO of Novell, the onetime giant in PC local-area networking. "Networks are interconnected and incredibly dynamic. They create discontinuities, leading to the creation of companies like Google and Netscape."

He says he sees networks as enormous amplifiers of societal and technological change, most obviously so in the profound impact of the Web and its information-sharing capabilities. As broadband adoption takes hold -- "It's growing at rates of 50% to 100% a year still," he points out -- consumers will head up the technology curve at an even faster rate.

"I'd like to see computer architectures that could be implemented by mere mortals. There's got to be a breakthrough in this area," says Schmidt, who believes that consumers are destined to play a greater role in shaping the future of technology than business users. "The applications that people really want are the ones that are a combination of knowledge and presence. They know you're around and they know what you're working on. It's the anticipatory computer -- one that can work on your project while you're off at lunch."

Looking ahead a decade, he figures Microsoft Corp. and IBM will remain among the most influential of today's dominant industry players, due to a combination of market power, size and technology advantage with corporate America. But from his perch at the leading search engine company -- where the bulk of its 500 employees are engineers and research and development spending is "massive" -- he is also optimistic about the pivotal role that new, young companies will play.

"History tells us that computing will become more connected, more interactive, more human-centered," he adds. "Already, the ubiquity of networks in our lifetimes has been a life-changing event."

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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