There was one sentence in the press release announcing the appointment of Sundar Pichai as CEO of Google: in the technology sector, to be relevant, you have to be a bit uncomfortable. That is important. If you’re comfortable, you’re not pushing boundaries. You’re not taking risks. If you’re comfortable, you’ve settled.
So now, Sergey Brin and Larry Page have both moved to the newly created larger umbrella company, Alphabet. This also means big financial changes, at least on paper. Stocks and shares will now be traded under the name of Alphabet, not Google. Sundar Pichai will be in charge of all the established Google products, like the things we use every day and have come to depend on so much that we could barely function without them. Pichai will be at the helm of the ubiquitous search, Play store, YouTube, maps, ads and Android. That is to say, the sure shots. The things that work. The proven products.
Sundar Pichai will be in charge of all the established Google products
According to the press release from Google – or is it from Alphabet now? – this will let Brin and Page focus on all the many other things that they want to do. There’s a funding set-up called Capital and Ventures. There’s the drone delivery programme, rather unimaginatively named Wing. There’s the life-extension programme, called Calico. There’s the research wing called X Lab. Home automation is Nest.
These are all extremely speculative ventures. Many of Google’s critics have criticised them for trying to branch out quite so far. We all know what Google is good at. They should stick with it, say experts. Even the Orkut (Brazil is still very sad, apparently) phenomenon died once Facebook caught on. Google Plus has had an underwhelming enough response that the whole idea of logging into everything at once to access any one platform (want YouTube? Got to take Google Plus, too!) is also being set aside for now.
If a company with as much resources as Google has, so perfectly poised to enter social media, cannot break through, how can they succeed in so many radically different things? And how will this affect Google?
Well, this shouldn’t affect Google, as we have come to think of it, at all. Pichai has been a part of the daily running of the well-established parts of Google for a long time now. He is extremely well-placed to take over the running of those parts and keep them ticking. We’ll probably still have updates we hate, updates we love, and everything will trundle along as usual.
But if the creative minds of Page and Brin can make some of their other ventures work the way they made Google work when the idea of using the Internet to do so much was just silly talk, we could see a few awesome things. Their funding arm, especially, could open new worlds to more young companies like Google was at one time.
What Google are doing with Calico now is exactly what Google did with Google not too long ago. It’s uncharted territory with an unlikely, unrealistic aim. But they said they would connect the world and organise the information in the world. They did it. Now they say they will break down aging and extend life to 120 years. If anybody can do it, wouldn’t it be them?