Google CEO Eric Schmidt: Smartphones will outsell PCs in two years

Mobile phone + network = handheld supercomputer

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said today that smartphones will outsell personal computers in just two years.

"Every one of you has a smartphone," Schmidt said in a speech at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference. "It turns out it's the defining and iconic device of our time. What's interesting about smartphones is that in two years smartphones will surpass PC sales. We're already seeing a very very strong accelerating growth there."

Tech arguments: iPhone vs. Droid vs. BlackBerry

Google, of course, is helping this trend along with its popular Android mobile operating system, which has rapidly gained on the BlackBerry and Apple's iPhone.

Mobile web adoption is actually happening eight times faster than web adoption on the PC occurred in the mid-1990s, and will lead to some pretty amazing new use cases, Schmidt said.

Hooking up a smartphone to wireless networks is essentially like hooking it up to a supercomputer, Schmidt said. In what he called a "simple example," Schmidt said "We can now demonstrate and are in the process of getting ready to ship a product that will let you speak in English and have it come out on the other end of the phone in German."

The phone itself can't do all this, Schmidt noted. It's the power of the phone's processor plus cloud computing that makes it happen.

"All the phone is doing is taking your voice, digitizing it and sending it through the network and to a server," he said. "That server is doing a speech-to-text translation," and then putting the translation through a voice synthesizer so that the person on the other end of the call can hear the words in his or her own language.

This can now be done in a quarter- or half-second, "which we think is too long, by the way," Schmidt added.

This is just one example of the long-term goal of "making humans better," as Schmidt described it. A video of Schmidt's keynote is available on VentureBeat, and it's worth watching. Schmidt covered a lot of ground in addition to mobile phones. The VentureBeat headline gives you a glimpse: "Google's Eric Schmidt wants computer-controlled cars to drive us around."

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