You may have noticed in the news the other week that Google is no longer Google. Rather it shall be known as Alphabet. The URL for the umbrella company will become abc.xyz. It didn’t take long for a parody site to pop up; abc.wtf. Guess where it leads.
The move was announced on Monday 10 August 2015. An open letter can be found on Alphabet’s site explaining the logistics of the move. This was more an ambitious statement of intent than anything else. It detailed how Alphabet would be structured and why, to their minds, the move was an important one.
Google had become limited by its own success. The most successful search engine is still just that. A search engine. Now the two founders, Larry Page and Sergei Brin, have almost unlimited scope to, as Larry put, “do important and meaningful things” that they perhaps couldn’t before. But what exactly will this be?
The firm staples of Google’s portfolio will stay exactly that; as part of Google’s portfolio. That means the likes of Maps, YouTube, Google Play and Android will operate under Google’s new CEO Sundar Pichai and his Google team.
Meanwhile some of the weird and wonderful projects Google has been dipping its tow into of late seem to make a bit more sense.
Starting rather fittingly at the beginning there is Calico, this is short for the California Life Company. You know how they say the first person to live until they’re 150 is alive already? Yeah, it’s these guys that are going to make that happen.
Calico is basically a research and development company whose goal is to combat aging and associated diseases. Their rather sparse site doesn’t give too much away but we know they are actively looking into the likes of cancer and dementia treatment, to ensure we all live longer, more prosperous lives.
Returning from Cloud 9 momentarily is another of their ventures; Fiber. This is a fairly low key project by Google’s standards. The idea behind it is a simple one; ultra high-speed internet. The company boasts download speeds of up to 1,000Mbps that is 44 times faster than the average UK home. To really ram that home, that’s 1 GB a second. Ultra-HD movies tend to be around 7GB. You would have that movie in seven seconds.
The offering is only available in certain cities in the US. But fingers crossed it hits the UK sooner rather than later.
Next up we’re launching straight back into the stratosphere with Project Loon. This project comes straight out of the X Labs (more on this later) and aims to offer internet access to rural and remote areas.
The aim is to offer 3G level connections to some of the most hard to reach places. This is done by floating balloons up into the stratosphere, well above the level of planes and even weather. These balloons can then be directed to where they are needed by positioning them in a favourable channel of wind.
This has been a fairly well publicised project. Google announced it would acquire Nest Labs in January 2014. The next day the acquisition took place for $3.2 billion. This start-up was founded by two Apple engineers after one became unimpressed with the thermostats that were currently available on the market.
They set about solving this issue and came up with Nest. An Internet-of-Things era look at the home. The project has since expanded and now encompasses not only thermostats, but home security cameras as well as smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. All of these are synched up and contactable via a smart phone, whether in the house or not.
Ventures is the venture capitalist branch of Google you’ve likely never heard of. It’s safe to say these guys let their portfolio do the talking. HubSpot, Nest, Pocket and Uber are just a few of the highlights to be found in their portfolio.
The advantages of being funded by a Google-related company for a budding tech firm are obvious. The access to Google’s army of the world’s best engineers will be as invaluable as the original investment.
Project Wing is another pet project of the X Lab which is looking to take the “friction out of moving things around”. Or in other words using drones to deliver products safely and quickly. The below video was released as a first look at how this might work:
They may face stiff competition in the field with Amazon Prime Air their key competitor. This will be an interesting one to watch unfold and whatever the result of the race, you can be sure the consumer will benefit in the long run.
Just judging from Amazin’s video (below) Google have got their number in terms of aesthetics. But would that ever have been in doubt?
Finally we’re onto the mythic X Lab. Mentioned previously, now you’re expecting a clear and concise explanation as to exactly what it is these guys do, right? Wrong.
They’re pretty secretive to be honest. Previous and current projects include:
But that isn’t the be all and end all of X Lab. The nature of their business (the very cutting edge of tech development) demands that the majority of their work remains fairly hush hush until the end stage of development.
Casting your eye back through this list of ventures it is easy to see why Google felt the need to revolutionise its structure. Interests have become far too sprawling for the likes of the world’s largest search engine to comfortably manage.
And let’s not forget Google’s formal motto, “Don’t be evil.”
Google: “Don’t be evil” Alphabet: “Evil is just one of our businesses”
— Tim Carmody (@tcarmody) August 10, 2015