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Google’s Eric Schmidt makes thinly-veiled attack on Apple Music as elitist and a decade out of date

Eric Schmidt (Reuters)

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, has made a thinly-veiled attack on Apple Music in a BBC op-ed on artificial intelligence. He described human-curated music selections as a decade out of data and an elitist approach.

A decade ago, to launch a digital music service, you probably would have enlisted a handful of elite tastemakers to pick the hottest new music.

Today, you’re much better off building a smart system that can learn from the real world – what actual listeners are most likely to like next – and help you predict who and where the next Adele might be … 

Schmidt said that using AI to do the job was less elitist and more democratic.

Apple has of course made much of the fact that it blends both algorithms and human curation to deliver what it believes is the best of both worlds.

You can’t do everything humanly curated, and you can’t do everything with algorithms. We have what we believe is the best of both.

Schmidt’s comments are somewhat ironic given that Google’s own streaming music service, Google Play Music, added a radio station back in June, with the company highlighting human curation of the tracks.

Our team of music experts, including the folks who created Songza, crafts each station song by song so you don’t have to. If you’re looking for something specific, you can browse our curated stations by genre, mood, decade or activity, or you can search for your favorite artist, album or song to instantly create a station of similar music.

Schmidt’s comments may well be influenced by the fact that Apple recently confirmed that it is launching an Android for Apple Music “in the fall.”

Photo: Reuters


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  1. 89p13 - 8 years ago

    “a decade out of data and an elitist approach”

    Sounds like Schmidt is talking about himself here!

    Eric – crawl back under your rock and look for some “other” technology that you can steal! In the meanwhile – shut-up and dance!

  2. Kawaii Gardiner - 8 years ago

    Dying flagship segment for GOogle, problems entering China, little to no interest in Google’s services when compared to most people interested in Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music, Microsoft is poaching customers for their Office 365 platform etc. Yes, Schmidt is very bitter because all the money and hype thrown at their services have yielded very few PAYING customers – I capitalising paying because that is what is important; money changing hands because as the price of ads keep dropping you’re going have to provide something to end users worth paying for.

  3. This guys again. I laugh at him every time :D

  4. Jurgis Ŝalna - 8 years ago

    Eric is one of the smartest tech leaders around. If you are not reading his books, you are wasting your life. Guy practically predicted Snowden.

    His opinions are not always popular because they are very controversial. Probably due to cognitive dissonance. He is all about information and how collecting and analysing it helps create amazing things. Where as more traditional tech person sees this as invasion of privacy or simply doesn’t want to commit his info. Probably because they are scared.

    • iSRS - 8 years ago

      Not saying he isn’t smart. But his hypocritical statements are too much.

    • 89p13 - 8 years ago

      “Eric is one of the smartest tech leaders around. If you are not reading his books, you are wasting your life.”

      That Does NOT make him a smart businessman – nor guarantee that his business interests will succeed, He needs more than just intelligence – he needs business skills and marketing smarts.

      Thank you – I’ll continue to “waste my life” and read what I choose. There are any number of people who could have predicted the Snowden leaks – Information is constantly being collected, sorted and stockpiled, which means that’s where the power is. It was just a matter of time until somebody cracked that well and it came spilling out.

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

      Wasn’t he saying how great the Google Glass was? And whatever happened to that failed product anyway? Any Glassholes out there anymore or did they just realize they were just expensive toys with limited market acceptance?

    • PMZanetti - 8 years ago

      He’s a stooge, and plant for the NSA. Nice try though.

      • 89p13 - 8 years ago

        He and Mark Zuckerberg!

    • rettun1 - 8 years ago

      Kinda easy to “predict Snowden” when it’s your company that was collecting a lot of the data that the government was sucking up, either with or without googles permission.

  5. iSRS - 8 years ago

    He has long lost credibility – much like others before him. Seems like of the big tech companies, IBM joined forces and is embracing Apple, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella has the company going in the right direction, and is embracing other platforms – so much so they showed up on stage to promote an Apple product and show how their Office Apps on the iPad Pro are one of the best experiences of office available.

    • Paul Douglas - 8 years ago

      Agreed, Microsoft have found a good balance between operating their own platform and supporting users on other platforms. They haven’t completely rid themselves of Not Invented Here Syndrome, but they’ve definitely excised their slavish devotion to it of the Ballmer era. They’re also listening to designers again, resulting in Windows 10 being by far the most cohesive Windows release since Vista (For all its problems, Vista was far more complete and cohesive a product than 7 or 8, which both felt like cludges for different reasons).

      Google meanwhile has had the opposite trajectory. Gone are the days when to Google the web was the thing, which meant being everywhere in whatever form the user demanded. Now Google is constantly trying to dictate terms because they want to control (and specifically, engineer) everything. A prime example is their unnecessary and fruitless endeavours in Video Codecs. webM is a complete waste of time, duplicating work done by everyone els in the industry on the prettiness of being “open”. In Google’s world “Open” means “in some way Google controlled”. The only reason for webM to exist is because Google doesn’t have any influence over MPEG. And they expect everyone to just jump on board because “it’s free!”. Hey, it worked with Android, right?

      It really is a shame to see what’s become of the once charming and free-spirited Google.

      • gatorguy2 - 8 years ago

        Apparently you aren’t aware of the patent licensing issues with MPEG’s H.285 standard. Itg’s not free and far from it. Apple isn’t using it for a reason, sticking with H.264 for now AFAIK. “To put in perspective how unjust and unfair their licensing terms are, they want 0.5% of Netflix, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and every other content owner/distributor’s revenue, as it pertains to HEVC usage. Considering that most content owners and distributors plan to convert all of their videos over time to use the new High Efficiency Video Coding compression standard, companies like Facebook, Netflix and others would have to pay over $100M a year in licensing payments. The licensing terms apply to all content services that get revenue from advertising, subscription and PPV – which pretty much equals every content owner, OTT provider, broadcaster, sports league, satellite broadcaster and cable provider you can think of.”

        Google’s competing standard will likely see wide acceptance if HVEC Advance doesn’t throttle back on the royalty demands.

        As far as the rest of your post Google has made their products cross-platform compatible for a long time. Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux. . . That you suddenly noticed MS wisely doing so doesn’t mean Google wasn’t already showing the way. I’ve no idea where you’re coming from with claims that Google is doing the opposite of Microsoft.

      • Paul Douglas - 8 years ago

        I never said it was free. I said webM was free. The implication was that being free isn’t important. h.264 isn’t free either. And nobody has a problem with it. You are utterly and completely deluded if you think a standard assembled by the vast majority of the video industry will be roundly abandoned by all its stakeholders in favour of a competing, inferior standard developed and controlled almost exclusively by Google purely on the basis that it is “free”.

      • gatorguy2 - 8 years ago

        You should take a few minutes to look into an issue before commenting so assuredly about it. Plug “H.265 royalty problems” into your favorite browser. Then comment again armed with a better understanding rather than superfluous off-the-cuff reaction you’re going with.

      • Paul Douglas - 8 years ago

        You should probably stop assuming people who disagree with you are ignorant. It’s a pretty terrible way to conduct yourself.

  6. pdjhh - 8 years ago

    Yeh, he certainly looks like he knows a lot about music.

    • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

      Make a billion dollars and then speak up….until then you have no room to speak on what he knows based upon his looks. Beethoven looks like he knows a lot about music too right? OR does one need to be covered in ink or gold chains to “look” like they know about music?

      • scumbolt2014 - 8 years ago

        You’re an idiot.

      • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

        Feel free to refute what I said then….oh you cant because once again, you can not tell whether someone knows about music based upon appearance…, who is an idiot?

  7. Dave Huntley - 8 years ago

    No idea why Brin and Co keep him around, he is often contradictory, often hypocritical, he adds zero image to the company. He’s not to be trusted, look how he sat on Apple’s board collecting info rather than recuse himself before iPhone launch.
    Being an old letch is prob fun for him, but he makes me UNLIKELY to buy a Google product, and that’s what it boils down too, just like snotty Ballmer, he’s frightening customers away. People will rush to Spotify and Apple now given that old Schmidt panned them…

  8. I’ll do as usual and ignore Schmidt’s comments. He usually has reality wrong anyway.
    Oh Jurgis.. i’ll also omit reading his books… this has done me well over the years and i better stick with the trend.

    Eric Schmidt wil preach for his own team as he is GOOG (or ABC) because he is very predictable. He used to be as adamant for AAPL when he was on the board… after trying to have it both ways and sharing his AAPL secrets with GOOG he changed his tune.

    Flip Flop loyalty is a sign of money following. He has very little interest in YOUR taste and YOUR preferences as long as it makes him richer… If you go and tell him that you prefer something than GOOG services, he’ll tell you that you’re wrong… Predictable.

    It doesn’t matter wether you prefer GOOG or AAPL or SPOTIFY services… what matters is that you find what you prefer and are able to use it (and pay for the hard work behind the ideas) … if you prefer AI selected music playlists… go to GOOG, if you prefer human curated playlists.. go to AAPL… in the end, it’s about what YOU…..the consumer prefers…

    VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET….USE WHAT YOU PREFER. Not what GOOG, APPL, SPOTIFY, RDIO or whatever Extra Terrestrial intelligence tells you … make your own mind around what you like.

  9. Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

    And you’d think that Eric would want to discuss the new and improved Google Glass. hahahahahaha. Aren’t they supposed to release the Enterprise version of Google Glass just for the workplace like Hospitals and factories? Yeah, like companies are going to want employees wearing those things in the work place recording meetings and trade secrets and posting on YouTube. Yeah, right. I can see the next wave in amateur YouTube videos via Google Glass.

    • Jurgis Ŝalna - 8 years ago

      No, but they’d like such devices to save their life or increase productivity. Business will be first to adopt them. All big consulting business predict this.

  10. chrisl84 - 8 years ago

    He’s right, human curated stations are just nonsense marketing crap that doesn’t work. If you want to pay for DJ Funk Master Fizzle Dizzles opinion go for it, but the masses wont. Self curated stations guided by algorithms are the most effective way. Put the logic in the hands of the end user.

    • What doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for others… I for one prefer hearing music that has been selected by humans. That’s the whole idea behind DJs and how radio stations still are relevant… I don’t need a drone telling me that he next logical song after the one I just listened to is this one because the algorithm tells me it is… Music is a feeling thing… calculated algorithms don,t work well for me. I’m not the only person with this mindset… The cookie cutter approach that certain companies preach may work well FOR THEM but in the end… if it doesn’t work FOR ME…i won’t buy the service.

      1st rule of being in business… be relevant to your customer before being relevant to your shareholders.

      • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

        DJ IS COOKER CUTTER! It is pure and simple cooker cutter putting the most listened songs to the masses, no human can out think a computer based on listening habits. Too many variables at play. Want a DJ turn on morning radio stations and enjoy the same top 40 songs every 90 minutes, want to hear music you like building your own library. MUSIC IN THE HANDS OF THE USER.

      • Jurgis Ŝalna - 8 years ago

        > I don’t need a drone telling me
        Until you realise that drone is you!

  11. gatorguy2 - 8 years ago

    I’m not really clear on what the problem is with his music comments. IMO he didn’t dismiss human curation, ala Apple. He simply said that it’s better to combine it with AI, which I would assume Apple also does. I don’t think he was dissing Apple but instead promoting Google’s curation using humans AND machine learning. Pretty sure Google and Apple are fairly similar in their approach.

  12. jkruehne - 8 years ago

    sure, he has to say this <:o)

  13. Apple: People are better than robots at Music. Google: Robots are better than people at music. …

  14. Interesting position: that algorithms — essentially robots — are better at picking out music from humans than the humans themselves.

    I suppose that means if a popular musician has his own radio show like, say Elton John, Dr. Dre, Pharrell, Disclosure or Ellie Goulding they should all just keep their elitist traps shut and let machines pick out the music ’cause obviously their life experiences in the industry, writing music, performing in concerts and understanding what constitutes as good music has nothing on 1’s and 0’s.

    Why not just skip humans making music and let the robots do it? Clearly an algorithm understands why a trench coat-wearing, kick boxer would hold a boombox above his head from 100-yards away playing “In Your Eyes” to impress a hot brainiac.

    • gatorguy2 - 8 years ago

      Did you actually read what he was quoted as saying? He didn’t opine that AI was better than human curation. You’re arguing with a red herring as the premise. According to the article he said:

      “You can’t do everything humanly curated, and you can’t do everything with algorithms. We have what we believe is the best of both.”

      • iSRS - 8 years ago

        As does Apple

    • Jurgis Ŝalna - 8 years ago

      In other news, computers are also better at doing maths!

  15. scumbolt2014 - 8 years ago

    Yeah. Because Schmidt-head’s the expert. He should cram it because if it wasn’t for Apple he wouldn’t have the user base he does. Stupid Glass-hole.

  16. Joe Belkin - 8 years ago

    SChmidt is now the village idiot of tech that Ballmer has retired. I guess SChmidt prefers Google’s approach when you upload pics of your black friends and it’s labeled _____________ by a “computer.algorithm.” But then again, Schmidt is the village idiot of tech who likes to make giant proclamations like he’s some sort of sage.

  17. yojimbo007 - 8 years ago

    Erick Mole Scumbag Schidth !


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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