Google: Innovation Desperation?

May 3, 2018

I have lost track of the ways Google tries to spark innovation. Years ago there was something called Google Ventures and before that “20 percent free time.” Today Google has demonstrated its hunger, need, and thirst for innovation by crating an investment mechanism for the Alexa killer, Google Assistant. “Google Starts Throwing Cash at Google Assistant Startups” explains:

Google is launching a new investment program for early-stage startups working to broaden Google Assistant hardware or features. The new program provides financial resources, early access to Google features and tools, access to the Google Cloud Platform, and promotional support in efforts to bolster young companies. Google says its investment program will also support startups focusing on Google Assistant‘s use in travel, hospitality, or games industries.

Like Apple, Google is watching the Alexa McLaren eat up the miles. I know it is silly to compare Amazon, Apple, and Google. Amazon sells books and plans to become a policeware hub. Apple sells hardware and wants to be a services vendor as iPhone X devices provide evidence that peak mobile phone day has arrived. And Google? It is after 20 years of trying to be different, still sells online ads.

The fix is to pay “entrepreneurs,” high school students, MBAs, and homeless FORTRAN programmers to build and expand the Google Assistant ecosystem.

Will the play work? My thought is that Google looks a bit wild eyed with its innovation efforts.

Perhaps it is true that I am worn out by Silicon Valley gyrations. Google, according to the write up, has “passion for the digital assistant ecosystem.”

That’s a plus.

But after 20 years of innovation, Google remains, as Steve Ballmer observed, a one trick pony. Throwing money at the pony is a long shot to change the beast into something different.

Worth watching the transformation attempt, however.

Stephen E Arnold, May 3, 2018


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