Alphabet Google Is Allegedly Inventing the Future

January 14, 2018

I read an interesting round up of Alphabet Google’s research initiatives. The article’s title is “The Future According to Alphabet Moonshots: From Calico to X.”

The write up begins by pointing out that Alphabet Google has trimmed some of its notable explorations. I learned:

Alphabet has already started to shed some of its less successful side projects, suggesting the holding company will only tolerate so much discomfort. In the past year, it sold satellite imaging firm Terra Bella and terrifying robotics division Boston Dynamics, while shuttering down solar-powered, internet-by-drone idea Titan and modular smartphone Project Ara.

Yep, cost control exists at Alphabet Google.

The list of “inventions” for the future mentioned in the article includes:

  • Calico which is part of the “solving death” thing
  • CapitalG, which is another of Alphabet Google’s “invest in others” activities
  • DeepMind, which is Alphabet Google’s smart software outfit
  • Jigsaw, the company’s “tech accelerator.”
  • Project Jacquard which is focused on weaving electronics into clothing
  • Project Soli which is a sensor “that uses radar to track miniscule motions”
  • Sidewalk Labs, which is Google’s smart city play
  • Verily, which seems to be another component of the “solving death”, immortality initiative
  • Waymo, which is the self driving auto initiative
  • X, which is the home of the Loon Balloon and “early stage trials”

Several thoughts crossed my mind as I worked through this list.

  1. Google is largely dependent on online advertising for its revenues. After 20 years of investing and inventing, the company still remains dependent on an idea inspired by You know trend lines reveal quite a bit about the past and the future. This trend line suggests that Alphabet Google is an online advertising company with little success in diversification or leapfrogging.
  2. Alphabet Google in into a wide spectrum of technologies. The unifying theme of these inventions, bets, or moonshots is not evident to me. The analogy is a person who has money betting on many different long odds lottery games.
  3. The artificial intelligence plays like DeepMind do not allow Alphabet Google to deal with malware in the Android store, filter YouTube videos for certain proscribed content for children, and cope with Google Images penchant for returning oddball search results. (Try male bikini without parental filters enabled.)

Without doing any additional research, I think that Alphabet Google is demonstrating that some Internet start up ideas do not enable additional revenue streams by throwing money at many bets. The old Bell Labs pulled off this trick but so far Google has not been able to duplicate Bell Telephone’s success in innovations that stick, then diffuse, and ultimately create new businesses.

Alphabet Google’s principal mechanism for innovation is the thousands of former Google employees who have left the company and pursued their own ideas. A good example is the Xoogler magnet Facebook.

Also, will Alphabet Google be been able to match Amazon’s revenue diversification?

Is Alphabet Google inventing the future? Yes, as long as it hires smart people who leave the company. The internal track record is interesting, but it has done little to allow the company to shake its addiction to online ad revenue.

What happens if that ad revenue softens, faces regulation in Europe and elsewhere, and erodes the online search value statement?

Has Alphabet Google’s bets created a situation in which the company must dog paddle frantically to maintain the status quo?

Stephen E Arnold, January 14, 2018


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