Google bosses have admitted that the search giant has been "poor" at real-time search and needs to learn from micro-blogging phenomenon Twitter, hinting that they "can work" with it without having to buy the social network.

Speaking at the annual Google Zeitgeist conference (held, bizarrely, in a Hertfordshire hotel) Google CEO Eric Schmidt did not rule out a bid for Twitter but lessened the speculation that it was attempting to.

"We do not have to buy everyone to work with them", he said.

Google is apparently impressed with Twitter's real-time search opportunities.

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Brand Republic reports that such a partnership could include indexing Twitter feeds on Google search, allowing people to search for tweets in the same way they search for news and blogs.

Google's co-founder Larry Page said Google needed to learn from Twitter as it moved to make its search engine work in real-time: "People really want to do stuff real time and I think they [Twitter] have done a great job about it. We have done a relatively poor job of creating things that work on a per-second basis."

The event was also attended by Virgin's Richard Branson, who told the conference that Virgin Galactic spaceships will be ready for testing by December 2009 and are on track to be carbon neutral.

Lord Mandelson of the UK's Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform also made a keynote speech at the Google Zeitgeist Conference. The theme of his speech was 'Reviving Fortunes' and centred on the credit crunch and economic downturn.

Yesterday, the Prince of Wales caused a stir at the Google get-together by wearing a tie.

"I feel rather overdressed. I might take my tie off," he said.

Prince Charles went on to say that the web had the power to "inform and challenge" people's thinking, calling it potentially "the most important tool in history".

Continuing the unusual royal theme, Prince Felipe of Asturias gave an overview of the growth potential and contribution of Iberian communities in the West.