Web Execs Take Center Stage at Electronics Show

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Google founder Larry Page and Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel offer similar messages in keynote speeches at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. They hope the audience of gadget manufacturers will simplify their products... and do away with competing and incompatible systems.

TV: Google founder Larry Page and Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel. Each gave keynote talks and offered a message that might not get them invited back. NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL: Leading up to their talks, there were plenty of rumors, particularly around Internet giant Google. With its stock price rising well above $400 and expected to keep climbing, there's a sense that the search engine can do anything. Rumor had it the company would release a $100 computer run with Google software. In his low-key style, Page poked fun at those rumors.

LARRY PAGE: There's something we really wanted to announce, too, is that, you know, we have--we're announcing this new product Google Fast Food where you push--it's on online system, so you push it on your car dash floor and it's connected through, you know, the cellular network.

SYDELL: Dressed in a white lab coat, the unassuming Internet king did make an announcement. Google has started its own video store and made a deal with CBS that allows users to download episodes of shows such as "Survivor" and "C.S.I." for a dollar-99. The company also has a deal with the NBA. Fans can download games for 3.95 24 hours after they've aired. But before they made the announcement, Page had an observation.

PAGE: As I was walking around I sort of felt like, you know, you have all these devices, and you know, they have screens and keyboards and things like that mostly--and you know, outputs and inputs of various types. They don't really connect with each other.

SYDELL: Ultimately, Page held out hope that in the future it would all be much simpler for consumers. Terry Semel, CEO of Google rival Yahoo!, had a similar message. Semel announced Yahoo! Go, an application that can run on every device that's hooked up to the Internet. It will allow users to take their pictures, music, schedules and more to whatever device they're using.

TERRY SEMEL: Which will make it much easier for users to get the stuff that they really want. So whether they're in the living room or whether they're around town or whether their information and entertainment can always follow them...

SYDELL: The common theme from both Google's Page and Yahoo!'s Semel may not be one that many of the guests at this conference want to hear, says Andy Schroepfer, analyst at Tier 1. He says the message is that devices should all be compatible and be simple receptacles for what comes over the Internet.

ANDY SCHROEPFER: There's way too many LCD TVs out there, there's way too many plasmas out there, there's way too many cameras out there--there's too much of everything.

SYDELL: However, Schroepfer doesn't think there's good news for consumers yet. As long as Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, which is also vying for the Internet space, are determined to offer competing and incompatible systems, the simplicity that they say they are seeking remains an elusive dream. Laura Sydell, NPR News, Las Vegas.

: Twenty-two minutes before the hour.

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