Schmidt shares his wildest dreams

BARCELONA // Imagine never forgetting anything. Or being a passenger in a driverless car. Or having a mobile phone that can constantly check your health and alert you to the next pants sale.

That's the vision of Eric Schmidt, the departing chief executive of Google who was in Barcelona this week at the Mobile World Congress.

Last month, Mr Schmidt said he would step aside in April and be appointed executive chairman. Larry Page, one of Google's co-founders, will assume the company's top job.

But looking at what the mobile market can offer consumer's today, Mr Schmidt's vision appears to be more rooted in science fiction than reality.

Although the conference has been traditionally geared towards telecommunications operators, the new mobile devices on display seemed to enthral attendees.

The largest crowds hovered around LG's stand to catch a glimpse of the Optimus 3D smartphone, which provides a 3D touchscreen display without the need for special glasses.

"I've run out of batteries for my phone because I've been [demonstrating] them all day," said Hyunwoo Nho, an LG representative.

Other phones that generated attention over the week were the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the HTC Desire S, both upgrades that are faster and lighter than previous models, and a mobile from INQ that is dedicated to Facebook and other social media.

Mr Schmidt noted the rapid increases in computing power of mobile phones will create a market where high-end smartphones will become cheap and change people's lives.

"[Mobiles are] a future for the masses not the elites," he said. "Over 2 billion people will enter our conversation who we've never heard from in the next year."

It is a vision shared by the Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop, who said the company's target market mainly lies in the 80 per cent of people around the world who live within mobile range, of which 20 per cent have access to mobile web.

Calling the smartphone "the new PC", Mr Schmidt said the advances in storing information online would continue to make mobile devices more useful in ways previously unheard of.

"Starting soon it will be possible to remember the hotels you went to, the pictures you took, the friends you met, because computer memories last forever," he said.

Mr Schmidt went further: he could be walking down the street and his phone would alert him to a nearby clothing store where a pair of pants in his size would be on sale. He would then pay by swiping his mobile at the cash register.

The future will also bring self-driving cars to the roads, an idea Google is developing after testing driverless cars last year.

Mr Schmidt said the concept was "decades away" and would be equipped with a "kill switch in case there are bugs".

What is Dungeons & Dragons?

Dungeons & Dragons began as an interactive game which would be set up on a table in 1974. One player takes on the role of dungeon master, who directs the game, while the other players each portray a character, determining its species, occupation and moral and ethical outlook. They can choose the character’s abilities, such as strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom and charisma. In layman’s terms, the winner is the one who amasses the highest score.

The specs: 2018 GMC Terrain

Price, base / as tested: Dh94,600 / Dh159,700

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder

Power: 252hp @ 5,500rpm

Torque: 353Nm @ 2,500rpm

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Fuel consumption, combined: 7.4L  / 100km


Name: Floward
Based: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Founders: Abdulaziz Al Loughani and Mohamed Al Arifi
Sector: E-commerce
Total funding: About $200 million
Investors: Aljazira Capital, Rainwater Partners, STV and Impact46
Number of employees: 1,200