It’s not news that Google missed social. But perhaps it’s news that the company now admits it, and that someone is taking responsibility.
In a video for Bloomberg TV offering his predictions for 2014, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says what most people already know — that Facebook won:
“The biggest mistake I made was not anticipating the rise of the social networking phenomenon. Not a mistake we’re going to make again. I guess in our defense we were busy working on many other things, but we should have been in that area and I take responsibility for that.”
The defense Schmidt offers is pretty good. Around the time of Facebook’s 2004 founding, Google was working hard on mobile, and eventually bought Android in 2005.
Of the two monster trends, social and mobile, it was arguably more important for Google to spot the second. Think of what might have happened to Google’s cash-cow advertising business had another company won in mobile search.
Indeed, even as Schmidt offers a mea culpa for social in the Bloomberg video, he also emphasizes the smartphone revolution: “The trend has been that mobile is winning. It has now won.”
A big reason for that is Android, which Google distributes free to handset makers, lowering the costs of phones world-wide. That helps explain why Android just passed 80% market share of smartphone shipments in the third quarter for the first time,according to IDC.
If Schmidt takes the blame for missing one trend, he is likely owed some credit for helping to spot the other.

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