SXSW Key Note : Google’s Amit Singhal

As a newly resident (but often non resident) Indian, it has always intrigued me to see Indian talent leading the US technology revolution. Hosted by Guy Kawasaki this keynote was the first time I’ve had an upfront and personal reflection on the journey that my own parents might have made.

Amit is a search junkie, which is good, as he is the Head of Search at Google. It was obvious that he designs his product with everyone in mind. “Due to his roots as an immigrant” he feels a strong sense of responsibility. He rifted on the theme for a while in this talk, reflecting that Google products helps the farmer in Africa or the kid in India to further their ambitions. Amit said that this was backed up with Google’s choice to have local server based strategically to reduce bandwidth. Stating that speed is still the killer app, low latency in a key component to the developing worlds and emerging markets. Amit also noted that Google translates supports the mission. Allowing people not educated in English to participate and consume the predominately English written Internet.

Raised on a diet of black and white Star Trek repeats in Utter Pradesh India, Amit moved to the states in 1990. He told Guy that he advice to his own children was to “Follow your heart and sleep happy”. It was the philosophy that led him to quit a steady job to pursue a PHD at Cornell University in the underlying techniques of modern search. An attitude I would love to see spread in MBA hungry Indians. As Amit said there is no right decision you make you own destiny.

Guy asked about Amit’s mistakes after all Guy had left Apple not once but twice. Amit said he never looks back but after some prodding said that waiting 6 months to join Google had been a mistake. Guy jokingly asked how many billions that has cost Amit.

Asked about a range of Google products such as Google Glass , Amit was not so forthcoming. He was equally as evasive on Facebook search. “Lets see” he said.

Amit did say that he thought the future was in computers who will provide real language answers. Interpreted in the press at talking computers I think Amit wants a search facility that has wisdom. “Voice is a far more natural interface with a device…” he went on to say “but voice is a key component of interacting with search.” Amit example was the Star Trek computer who can respond to real world questions. Amit pointed out that Elon Musk is working on space travel and he is working on talking computer.