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Eric Schmidt: Get Ready for 'a Lot' More Alphabet Companies

"After 26, we’re going to probably transcendental numbers."

Asa Mathat

When Alphabet was formed, Eric Schmidt, its chairman and one of the five people who technically constitute Google’s new holding company, was on vacation, learning to fly.

“I wake up, and I’m the chairman of Alphabet,” Schmidt said on Tuesday at the Virtuous Circle conference in Menlo Park, Calif. “We sort of announced it without actually knowing which companies it would be. So we’re still working out the details.”

The talk, during a summit on tech and policy convened by the Internet Association trade group, was closed-door, but Re/code obtained a recording. Schmidt, the long-time Google chairman and former CEO, spoke on a number of policy topics, including encryption, bandwidth regulation, Google’s beleaguered “Right to be Forgotten” saga in Europe and the sharing economy.

He said he was “very worried” about recent data privacy proposals in Europe, such as its Safe Harbor ruling last week, that assign digital regulation to individual nations — creating “per-country Internets,” in Schmidt’s words. “If that occurs,” he said, “we would lose one of the greatest achievements of humanity.”

He was not asked about the antitrust cases Google has faced and currently faces, nor did he bring them up.

None of Schmidt’s comments on policy were new; his statements on Alphabet reiterated what (little) the company has said. But he did voice what has been unsaid, yet largely assumed, about the conglomerate — that there may be many more subsidiaries to come.

How many? “After 26, we’re going to probably transcendental numbers” like π, Schmidt said to laughs. “You think I’m kidding?”

He went on: “I’ve been meeting with the current CEOs of the Alphabet companies and the proposed ones. So you’ll see a lot coming.”

Schmidt did not divulge what those would be. He did, however, lavish praise on a potential company, Google’s self-driving car initiative. (Though it has a CEO, it’s still tucked inside Google X.) And he talked up the business of an existing one. When asked what Internet companies, beyond Alphabet, he finds exciting, Schmidt cited the startup financed by Alphabet company Google Ventures: Uber.

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