Total Pageviews

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Leaping to Conclusions on a Pilot\'s Speculation

An article on the Bloomberg News Web site on Wednesday noted an airline pilot's claim that an iPhone could interfere with a plane's compasses during takeoff and landing.

But the report cited in the article isn't based on scientific research. It was merely one pilot's speculation.

The pilot even called it speculation in a report filed in NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System.

In the incident, which took place in May 2011, a pilot said the compass of the regional airliner he was flying went haywire after takeoff, when the plane was at an altitude of around 9,000 feet. The pilot said he suspected “cellphones left on may contribute to the heading problems.”

I read the report at the time of the incident, and it offered no proof nor cited any evidence detailing how the smartphone could have interfered with the plane's aeronautics. What's more, the pilot's statement incorrectly described the status of the phone.

“A passenger in row 9 had an iphone in the standby mode; not airplane mode or off,” the pilot said in the report. There is no such thing as “standby mode” on an iPhone.

According to the pilot's report, when the passenger turned the phone off, the compass problem was resolved. (There were just 11 other passengers on board.)

Even the Federal Aviation Administration will acknowledge that there is no scientific proof that today's gadgets can interfere with a plane's avionics. A year ago, I asked Les Dorr, a spokesman for the F.A.A., who said that any incidents were anecdotal.

The Bloomberg article also said the the Association of Flight Attendants union “told the F.A.A. last year that electronic devices should be stowed during those critical phases of flight, just as bags and purses must be.”

Yet last year, when I spoke with Stacy K. Martin, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents more than 10,000 flight attendants, he said the flight attendants' unions hoped the F.A.A. would provide some relief from the stringent rules about gadgets on planes.

“We're not policemen,” Mr. Martin said. “We're not going to be able to get anything done if we have to ask people if they're wearing sunglasses or computer glasses and if their watch is a computer” - a reference to wearable computers that passengers will soon be wearing on flights.

Mr. Levin also notes that “the dangers from radio waves interfering with electronic equipment has been known for decades.” He cited an incident in 1967, “when a rocket on a fighter jet accidentally fired after a radar beam triggered an electronic malfunction.” This was 47 years ago, and didn't involve a smartphone, tablet or laptop, as none of those devices existed at the time.

A study released last week by two industry groups, the Airline Passenger Experience Association and the Consumer Electronics Association, found that many as 30 percent of all passengers said they had accidentally left a device on during takeoff or landing.

In 2010, 712 million passengers flew within the United States. That means roughly 213 million people accidentally left a device on at least once during takeoff and landing. How many abnormalities were observed on all those flights?

Last year, after months of pressure, the F.A.A. said it would begin a review of its policies on electronic devices in all phases of flight. The agency is expected to release its findings later this year.

Larry Page Gets Personal at Google\'s Conference

Google's I/O developers conference was light on major announcements. But the company's chief executive, Larry Page, made news with a surprise appearance on stage, during which he took questions from software developers in the audience.

Mr. Page's remarks ranged from the need to encourage children to pursue computer science to competition and negativity in the technology industry and people's resistance to technological change.

“Computer science has a marketing problem,” he said, after waxing nostalgic about how his father got him interested in technology when he drove him across the country as a child to attend a robotics conference.

Making computer science cool, he said, is the reason that Google agreed to participate in “The Internship,” a movie scheduled to come out in June, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as Google interns.

Another problem slowing technological progress, he said, is needless competition among tech companies and the media's thirst for reporting on it.

“In every story I read about Google, it's us versus some other company or some stupid thing, and I just don't find that very interesting,” he said. “We should be building great things that don't exist. Being negative is not how we make progress, and the most important things are not zero sum.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Page proceeded to take shots at two of Google's rivals.

In a conversation about developing for Web platforms, he said, “We certainly struggle with people like Microsoft.” In response to a question about the Android operating system and Oracle's Java, he said, “We've had a difficult relationship with Oracle, including having to appear in court.” He added, “I think money is more important to them than having any collaboration.”

A day after revealing that his soft, nasally voice is caused by a medical problem with his vocal cords, Mr. Page said he wished that he had told the full story sooner. For a year, since skipping public events because of his voice, he had refused to explain the problem.

“I had this notion that this stuff should be very private, and I think at least in my case, I should've done it sooner,” he said. He veered into a broader statement on the need for health care reform. People keep their medical history private, he said, because they are worried about being denied insurance. “That makes no sense,” he said. “We should change the rules around insurance so they have to insure people.”

He acknowledged that new technologies and technological change make many people uncomfortable, and he lamented that there is not an easier way to test things in the real world. He showed a bit of his hippie side, saying he wished for a Burning Man type of environment for new technology, where people felt safe trying things.

“In tech, we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things and figure out what is the effect on society and what is the effect on people, without having to deploy them in the whole world,” Mr. Page said.

Overall, his message seemed to be that technology and the developers to whom he was speaking have the ability to make vast changes in the world. He revealed a bit about his leadership strategy when he said companies should step outside their comfort zones and focus less on incremental progress.

There should be no reason that computers haven't yet solved problems like world hunger, he said.

“As an engineer, a technologist, go to first principles and say, ‘What is the real issue around our power grids?' or ‘What is the real issue around manufacturing?' ” he said. “I think people don't usually answer those questions, and as a result, most of the work done is very incremental and we don't make the progress we need to.”

A version of this article appeared in print on 05/16/2013, on page B11 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Chief in Surprise Appearance at Google Conference.

Little Is Said About Google Glass at Developers Conference

12:04 p.m. | Updated to reflect the role of Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, in a demonstration of Google Glass.

Sergey Brin, one of Google's co-founders, pulled off a stunt for the ages last year when, while wearing the company's Internet-connected glasses, he provided color commentary on skydivers heading to the convention center where the company's annual I/O conference was being held.

But this year, Glass seems nowhere to be found, except on the faces of developers who have agreed to pay $1,500 for the device.

During a keynote presentation that stretched for 3 1/2 hours, Google executives barely mentioned Glass, and none wore it onstage.

Larry Page, Google's chief executive, briefly discussed it but only in response to a question. His answer revealed that Google seems to want to downplay Glass for now.

Google is moving exceedingly slowly with the device, he said, because wearable technology is a new category and it wants to make sure people are happy with the device before adding many new things.

“Our main goal is to get happy users using Glass,” he said. “So the team is trying to build the minimal set of things, just for practicality's sake, that will provide a great experience and get happy users, and then work on it for the next 10 years.”

Glass has had its share of publicity nightmares since more people started wearing the glasses in public, like a “Saturday Night Live” skit, negative news reports and a a rather funny Tumblr page called “White Men Wearing Google Glass.”

One of those white men, Robert Scoble - a technology blogger, a Rackspace employee and a classic early adopter - made Glass the punchline of many jokes last week when he posted a photo of himself wearing it in the shower.

Mr. Page took the opportunity on Wednesday to let Mr. Scoble know how he felt about his Glass publicity efforts.

“Robert, I really didn't appreciate the shower picture,” he said.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly described the role of Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, in a demonstration of Google Glass. He narrated as a skydive was performed; he did not himself skydive.

Google Buys a Quantum Computer

Google and a corporation associated with NASA are forming a laboratory to study artificial intelligence by means of computers that use the unusual properties of quantum physics. Their quantum computer, which performs complex calculations thousands of times faster than existing supercomputers, is expected to be in active use in the third quarter of this year.

The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, as the entity is called, will focus on machine learning, which is the way computers take note of patterns of information to improve their outputs. Personalized Internet search and predictions of traffic congestion based on GPS data are examples of machine learning. The field is particularly important for things like facial or voice recognition, biological behavior, or the management of very large and complex systems.

“If we want to create effective environmental policies, we need better models of what's happening to our climate,” Google said in a blog post announcing the partnership. “Classical computers aren't well suited to these types of creative problems.”

Google said it had already devised machine-learning algorithms that work inside the quantum computer, which is made by D-Wave Systems of Burnaby, British Columbia. One could quickly recognize information, saving power on mobile devices, while another was successful at sorting out bad or mislabeled data. The most effective methods for using quantum computation, Google said, involved combining the advanced machines with its clouds of traditional computers.

Google bought the machine in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, a nonprofit research corporation that works with NASA and others to advance space science and technology. Outside researchers will be invited to the lab as well.

This year D-Wave sold its first commercial quantum computer to Lockheed Martin. Lockheed officials said the computer would be used for the test and measurement of things like jet aircraft designs, or the reliability of satellite systems.

The D-Wave computer works by framing complex problems in terms of optimal outcomes. The classic example of this type of problem is figuring out the most efficient way a traveling salesman can visit 10 customers, but real-world problems now include hundreds of such variables and contingencies. D-Wave's machine frames the problem in terms of energy states, and uses quantum physics to rapidly determine an outcome that satisfies the variables with the least use of energy.

In tests last September, an independent researcher found that for some types of problems the quantum computer was 3,600 times faster than traditional supercomputers. According to a D-Wave official, the machine performed even better in Google's tests, which involved 500 variables with different constraints.

“The tougher, more complex ones had better performance,” said Colin Williams, D-Wave's director of business development. “For most problems, it was 11,000 times faster, but in the more difficult 50 percent, it was 33,000 times faster. In the top 25 percent, it was 50,000 times faster.” Google declined to comment, aside from the blog post.

The machine Google will use at NASA's Ames Research facility, located near Google headquarters, makes use of the interactions of 512 quantum bits, or qubits, to determine optimization. They plan to upgrade the machine to 2,048 qubits when this becomes available, probably within the next year or two. That machine could be exponentially more powerful.

Google did not say how it might deploy a quantum computer into its existing global network of computer-intensive data centers, which are among the world's largest. D-Wave, however, intends eventually for its quantum machine to hook into cloud computing systems, doing the exceptionally hard problems that can then be finished off by regular servers.

Potential applications include finance, health care, and national security, said Vern Brownell, D-Wave's chief executive. “The long-term vision is the quantum cloud, with a few high-end systems in the back end,” he said. “You could use it to train an algorithm that goes into a phone, or do lots of simulations for a financial institution.”

Mr. Brownell, who founded a computer server company, was also the chief technical officer at Goldman Sachs. Goldman is an investor in D-Wave, with Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com. Amazon Web Services is another global cloud, which rents data storage, computing, and applications to thousands of companies.

This month D-Wave established an American company, considered necessary for certain types of sales of national security technology to the United States government.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 17, 2013

An earlier version of this story stated that NASA was involved in the purchase of the quantum computer. While the computer will be located at NASA's facility, it was not involved in the purchase of the computer.

Pebble Raises $15 Million as Wave of Smart Watches Arrives

Rumor has it that everyone from Apple to Microsoft is working on smartwatches to compete with the handful that are already arriving on the market.

But before those started making waves, there was the Pebble, a Kickstarter project begun last April in order to build a durable sports watch that could also receive text messages and calls and play music. Before anyone had seen a finished product, it dazzled tens of thousands of people online, who then contributed $10 million to see the device manufactured.

And on Thursday, Pebble announced it had raised $15 million from Charles River Ventures to propel the company out of its idea phase and into full-on start-up mode.

Eric Migicovsky, the Canadian engineer who started the Pebble project, said that it had already shipped 70,000 watches to its Kickstarter backers; it owes them another 15,000, which it is rushing out. The company is also planning to sell watches through its site. He said that if Pebble wants to continue to work on future designs, it will need additional financial support and advisement.

“When we started shipping Pebble at the end of January, we realized that if we were looking at a larger opportunity than we originally anticipated, we might need more support, a larger network and some capital to pull it off,” he said. Pebble spent most of its original $10 million on manufacturing.

Mr. Migicovsky said his primary plans are to support the growing community of developers who have already built 600 apps for the Pebble smartwatch. He said that there is a message board on Reddit, a news aggregator, dedicated to Pebble add-ons and products, including a shower holster that lets owners mount their watches while they bathe. In addition, he said, he wants to hire more software developers and people who can start prototyping what the second-generation Pebble smartwatches might look like. Both of these things will help safeguard Pebble from the onslaught of competition likely to come from industry heavyweights like Google, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft.

“Obviously others have recognized the opportunity,” he said. “But we're going to focus on what we're good at, which is building a sports watch with a long battery life that looks good.”

Pebble is not the only Kickstarter project that sought outside funds after an initial whirlwind of crowdfunded support. Ouya, an Android-based gaming console, also recently announced that it had raised $15 million in venture financing.

New Apps Arrive on Google Glass

Google Glass, the company's Internet-connected glasses, will soon have seven new apps, including breaking news alerts from CNN, fashion features from Elle, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook posts and reminder notes from Evernote.

Google announced the apps, which it calls Glassware, Thursday at its I/O developers conference, the largest assembly yet of people wearing Glass in the same place. They join Path and The New York Times as the only apps so far available on Glass. The glasses also offer Google services like search and maps, connect to users' cellphones for text messaging, take photos and record video.

Just as apps transformed smartphones from cellphones into devices that have become essential to daily life for many people, so Google hopes that apps will make Glass more functional. Still, Google is moving slowly and cautiously in opening Glass to developers. Apps have limited access to Glass users' data, for instance, and for now, cannot include ads.

Google wants developers to experiment with building apps tailored to Glass, as opposed to just transporting mobile apps to the new device. Glass is different than phones because it is in a user's line of sight and has a smaller screen. So notifications, for instance, could easily be disruptive or unwanted.

Google has given Glassware developers four pieces of advice: keep it short and sweet for the small screen, make sure alerts are relevant, send timely information people need on the go and make tasks easier and more seamless than they are on other devices.

CNN's app, for instance, lets people choose which types of news alerts they receive (politics but no sports, for instance), and the time of day at which they are delivered. Then they can read or hear aloud a short summary and watch a video clip.

Similarly, Elle's app allows people to choose the sections of the magazine they want to see on Glass, swipe through photos from a story, hear a section of a story read aloud, add stories to a reading list for later and share stories with friends. At Elle, there is a team dedicated to taking monthly magazine content and turning it into real-time updates that make sense for Glass, like posts from the Elle Dispatch blog.

So far on Glass, photos are shareable only through Google Plus. With the Facebook app, Glass users will be able to share photos taken with Glass on Facebook. Twitter's Glass app lets people tailor their stream to only receive posts from certain people and transcribe new posts using voice. Tumblr's app shows a user's full feed or just select updates.

When people are using Evernote on the Web, they will be able to send notes, like a grocery list, to Glass, so it's accessible when they need it.

Another new app was built by three of the developers who received an early edition of Glass. It's a game called Ice Breaker that some people could say bridges the divide between the physical and digital worlds - and others might say creates some socially awkward situations. Glass users see a notification of someone who is also playing the game nearby, and the people introduce themselves and take a picture of one another, rate their conversation and earn points.

The Glassware will be available to people who signed up and paid $1,500 for an early edition of Glass. Though other developers are beginning to build apps for the device, there is not yet an app store where anyone can offer such apps.

At Google Conference, Cameras Even in the Bathroom

6:55 p.m. | Updated

The future came crashing down on me this week at the Google I/O developer conference while I stood at a bathroom urinal.

I had just wrapped up a conversation with a man who owned a pair of Google's Internet-connected glasses, Google Glass. He had explained that one of the gadget's greatest features is the ability to snap a photo with a wink. “It's amazing, you just look at something, wink your eye and it just takes a picture,” he said enthusiastically.

I should preface here by saying that that I'm a nerd. I've been a nerd all my life, always buying the first era of a new gadget - essentially anything with a button and a battery. But this week, the moment I swung open the doors to the Moscone Center in San Francisco, home of the developer conference, I felt like a mere mortal among an entirely different class of super-connected humans.

Everywhere I looked at the conference, people were wearing Google Glass. Hundreds of them. Maybe more than a thousand! They were on the escalator. At the coffee stations. Press lounges. Lingering in the hallways like gangs of super nerds. They looked like real people as they nibbled on M&M's and nuts at the snack bars. Except they weren't; these “humans” were able to take pictures with their eyes and then post them to the Internet.

The developers present who didn't own the company's augmented reality glasses stared at those who did with awe. But not me. I tried to duck my head and move out of the way of these strangers' sneaky little cameras.

Often, Google Glass owners looked strange. Many were using their cellphones while wearing the glasses - defeating a declared purpose of the new gadget, to free you from having to look at your phone. Another man continually looked at his watch to check the time, even through the glasses display a clock right above your eye.

At one point as I climbed the stairs and approached the second floor, I saw a group of five people wearing Google Glass, all silently staring off into space. I couldn't tell if they were wirelessly having a conversation through their eyeballs, or just bored by the presence of real humans in front of them.

Then I met the man who excitedly told me about his power to snap pictures with his eyelid. (The wink, it should be noted, is not officially supported by Glass, but is essentially a hack “sideloaded” onto the device.) He explained that he uses the wink-to-take-a-picture feature so much that a few days ago he was not wearing his Google Glass and was confused when he blinked his eye and nothing happened. His mind had played a trick on him, he said.

I laughed nervously as he told me the story, his Google Glass propped atop his nose, unsure if he was winking or blinking at me, taking pictures or just clearing dirt from his eyes. I then excused myself to go to the toilet.

As I approached the line to the restroom, I took a deep sigh, thinking that I might find some respite from the hundreds of cameras strapped to people's heads at the conference.

Yet when it was finally my turn to approach the rows of white urinals, my world came screeching to a halt. There they were, a handful of people wearing Google Glass, now standing next to me at their own urinals, peering their head from side to side, blinking or winking, as they relieved themselves.

Apple Fights Back in Antitrust Case Over E-Book Prices

Apple Fights Back in Antitrust Case Over E-Book Prices

Kimberly White/Reuters

In 2010, Steve Jobs introduced some of the publishing houses that would license iBooks.

WASHINGTON - Don't mess with the legacy of Steve Jobs.

That is one of several factors that seem to be motivating Apple's vigorous defense against a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit accusing the company of conspiring with five of the largest publishing houses to fix prices on electronic books, according to people close to the case.

Unlike the five publishers, all of which have settled the case, filed in April 2012, Apple is aggressively disputing the government's assertions that Apple and the publishers wanted to force Amazon, which controlled 90 percent of the e-book market before Apple entered it, to raise its prices, according to court papers filed this week. A trial is scheduled to begin June 3 in Federal District Court in New York.

Among other defenses, Apple says that both Amazon and the publishing companies were already contemplating a move to a different pricing model in 2009, before Apple entered the e-book business. Apple cites one Amazon executive who referred in an e-mail to the idea that Amazon got publishers to accept what it wanted all along as “Jedi mind tricks.”

Apple, whose 2010 introduction of the iPad corresponded with its opening of a digital bookstore, denies that it tried to convince publishers to enforce a regime that would allow them to set their own retail prices for books, above the $9.99 price that Amazon was then charging.

In addition, Apple says that the Justice Department has selectively edited and distorted e-mails between executives of Apple and the publishers.

“Apple injected much-needed competition and innovation into the e-book business,” said Orin Snyder, a lawyer at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who represents Apple. “The DOJ's case is based on fictions and incomplete quotations. The actual evidence proves that Apple did not conspire to fix prices in the e-book business. We look forward to trial.”

The Justice Department accuses Apple of its own selective quotation. And, it said, the evidence shows that the publishing companies threatened to withhold books unless Amazon allowed them to set higher prices and that Apple “encouraged them to do so.”

Apple seems particularly peeved about the government invoking e-mails of its former chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, to assert its case, saying the government's selective editing of those e-mails deliberately distorts Mr. Jobs's intentions.

The government's court papers quote from an e-mail that Mr. Jobs sent on Jan. 24, 2010, to James Murdoch, who as head of News Corporation oversaw its publishing company, HarperCollins. That was three days before the introduction of the iPad, as Apple was furiously negotiating deals with publishers that would allow it to introduce its bookstore on the same day.

Apple says the government left out of its papers the fact that Mr. Jobs said Amazon might have the right price for e-books already, at $9.99. “Maybe they are right and we will fail,” Mr. Jobs wrote.

Taken in total, Apple said, the e-mail “shows a new entrant with no market power proposing an alternative business model to HarperCollins, and candidly recognizing that Apple has no power to predict or influence other retailers,” Apple said in pretrial papers.

Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester who follows the publishing industry, said Apple still has a relatively small share of the e-book market.

“Even though they have a big brand, their actions have had relatively little impact on the overall industry,” Ms. Rotman Epps said.

Since Apple's entry, e-book prices have gone down, the company said, with the average retail price of an electronic book falling 63 cents since April 2010, from $7.97 to $7.34.

Michael Cader, the creator of Publishers Lunch, an industry publication, said there were multiple ways of interpreting what had happened to e-book prices since the start of Apple's iBookstore. He said at least part of the decline might reflect the exponential growth in older books, self-published books and books from an array of small and digital-only publishers, many of which are often sold for as little as 99 cents to $3.

Edward Wyatt reported from Washington, and Brian X. Chen from San Francisco.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 18, 2013

An article on Friday about Apple's battle with the Justice Department over charges of price-fixing on e-books characterized incorrectly a comment by Michael Cader, of the industry publication Publishers Lunch, on the decline in e-book prices. He speculated that the growth in older books, self-published books and books from small and digital publishers might account for part of the decline; he did not state that as a fact.

A version of this article appeared in print on May 17, 2013, on page B7 of the New York edition with the headline: Apple Fights Back in Antitrust Case Over E-Book Prices.

Saudi Web Sites Under Attack After Surveillance Accusations

The Saudi Interior Ministry said Friday that several government Web sites have come under attack in a campaign hackers are calling #OpSaudi.

Hackers who identify with the loose hacking collective Anonymous have aimed at several government Web sites, including the Saudi Ministry of Finance, General Intelligence Presidency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Directorate General of Passports, as well as sites for several major Saudi provinces, including Makkah and Jeddah. 

Most of the sites are facing distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks, in which hackers flood each site with traffic until they collapse under the load. But hackers claimed to have also broken into some sites through a so-called SQL injection, in which attackers exploit a software vulnerability and enter commands that cause a database to produce its contents. In one case, the Twitter account for @AnonySaudi claimed to delete the database of a Saudi Web server.

Hackers say their motive is twofold. On Twitter, some claim the #OpSaudi campaign is in retaliation for unconfirmed reports of a rape and murder in Saudi Arabia. Some Tweets include links to YouTube videos which show images of a naked body dumped on the side of a road. The attacks also followed an announcement by Matthew Rosenfield, the well-known security researcher who goes by the hacker handle Moxie Marlinspike, that Mobily, a major Saudi telecommunications company, approached him about assisting in a continuing Saudi surveillance project.

In a widely circulated blog post Monday, Mr. Marlinspike said he learned that on behalf of a Saudi “regulator,” Mobily is working to intercept mobile app data for communication tools including Twitter and free mobile messaging apps like Viber, Line and WhatsApp that send messages over the Web. He published his e-mail correspondence with an executive at Mobily, which showed the company is developing the ability to monitor mobile data communication and already has the ability to block it.

Mr. Marlinspike told Yasser D. Alruhaily, a Mobily security executive, that he declined the job for privacy reasons. Mr. Alruhaily replied, “I know that already and I have same thoughts like you freedom and respecting privacy, actually Saudi has a big terrorist problem and they are misusing these services for spreading terrorism and contacting and spreading their cause that's why I took this and I seek your help,” he wrote. “If you are not interested than maybe you are on indirectly helping those who curb the freedom with their brutal activities.”

Mobily spokesman denied contacting Mr. Marlinspike. ”Mobily or its employees never communicated with the author of this blog,” the company told Reuters. “Mobily communicates with information security companies only based on legal and lawful requirements. We never communicate with hackers. Moreover, it is not our job to spy on customers.”

On Friday, the Mobily Web site was among the growing number of Saudi Web sites that #OpSaudi had taken offline.


Eric Schmidt of Google to Meet With British Prime Minister

Given the grilling that Google has gotten this week in Parliament, you might think that Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of the company, would be persona non grata in London these days.

Not so, it appears. Mr. Schmidt is one of 16 high-level corporate executives who have been invited to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron next week. They are members of the Business Advisory Group, which regularly gathers at Mr. Cameron's office to bat around economic issues.

While the talks are private, it is a safe bet that nobody at No. 10 Downing Street will call Mr. Schmidt “devious,” “unethical” or “evil” â€" at least not to his face. Those are just some of the terms that Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, used to describe Google during hearings this week on the strategies that multinational companies employ to minimize their taxes.

Ms. Hodge and other lawmakers are upset that Google paid only £6 million in corporate taxes in Britain in 2011, despite generating more than £3 billion in revenue there. Google, which reduces its tax bill in Britain and other European countries by routing sales via Ireland, where corporate taxes are lower, insists that the practice is perfectly legal.

A Downing Street official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said taxation would indeed be included in the discussions of the Business Advisory Group on Monday, which will focus on preparations for the Group of 8 summit meeting next month in Northern Ireland. “Nothing is off the table,” this person said.

“The prime minister has made it very clear that having strong international standards to make sure that global companies, like anyone else, pay the taxes they owe is a priority for the G-8 summit,” Mr. Cameron's office said in a statement.

In addition to Mr. Schmidt, the advisory group includes prominent chief executives like Vittorio Colao of Vodafone, Tom Enders of EADS and Angela Ahrendts of Burberry. It has been meeting quarterly for more than two years.

One person familiar with Mr. Schmidt's agenda said he planned to be in London for a number of events next week and would attend the meeting of the advisory group. Mr. Schmidt sits on the council in a “private capacity,” not as an official Google representative, this person added.