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Google's Eric Schmidt Admits to Screwing Up

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As an audience member to the All Things Digital conference, you'd have to expect a few interesting tidbits during an interview with Google's former CEO Eric Schmidt.

For one, the man considers Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon among the tech world's "Gang of Four" -- companies which are expanding faster than ever. (He notably, but understandably, omitted Microsoft.) Schmidt also revealed that the company just renewed its search partnership with Apple which also secures Google Maps on iPhones and iPads. He has no plans of ever leaving Google and voiced his opinion that personalization isn't narrowing a user's search results.

But two remarks made by Schmidt definitely raised some eyebrows.

Tech curmudgeon Walt Mossberg remarked that Google's search results are "more and more polluted" with link spam despite efforts made by the company to clean them up. Schmidt replied that the recent updates have only impacted 12% of all searches, but Google continues to polish the results each quarter in ways most users would never notice. But the former CEO surprised the crowd when he addressed Microsoft's efforts with Bing and admitted that, when it comes to direct answers, Bing is superior to Google "in some narrow cases."

Which means Schmidt believes that Bing can occasionally provide better and more direct information than Google... "in some narrow cases."

The exec also mentioned how hard Google attempted to pursue Facebook to be the social network's search partner, only to lose out to Microsoft. Despite the recent revelation of Facebook's failed smear campaign against Google, Schmidt had to congratulate the company for its successes.

"Facebook's done a number of things which I admire," he said. "It's the first generally available way of disambiguating identity. Historically, on the Internet such a fundamental service wouldn't be owned by a single company. I think the industry would benefit from an alternative to that."

Adding, "Identity is incredibly useful because in the online world you need to know who you are dealing with."

But how successful does Schmidt believe Google has been with social? Answer: Not very.

Among the biggest regrets the former CEO has, Google's struggles with tackling a social side is near the top. In fact, the man blames himself for the company's problems with defining a user's online identity.

"Four years ago, I wrote memos on identity and did nothing," Schmidt said. "I clearly knew I had to do something, and I failed to do it."

And offering sentiments rarely heard from a chief executive -- unless following an indictment -- "A CEO should take responsibility. I screwed up."

We'll have to see how the +1 buttons do before Schmidt starts feeling any better about it.

(See also: HTC Knows What Android Stands for Better Than Google, Motorola and Did Google Execs Smuggle Secret Info from PayPal?)

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