The Future Is Here
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Is This Alphabet Thing All About Google's Tesla Envy?

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As Silicon Valley struggles to understand the news about Google’s new parent company Alphabet, one thing has become clear. Alphabet is all about highlighting Google’s futuristic and downright nutbar projects. It’s as if Larry Page and Sergey Brin wish they were running Tesla.

After all, Elon Musk’s company gets to do all the cool things like reinvent energy with the Powerwall and electric cars. Plus, its sister company SpaceX is going to freakin’ space. Musk is putting all his cash into futuristic projects, and it’s actually paying off — partly in money, but perhaps more importantly in cultural capital. Everybody thinks Tesla and SpaceX are the future. Google is the present which is already sliding into the past.


But now, Alphabet aims to change all that by focusing on projects with just as much Utopian sizzle as those coming out of the Gigafactory. Life Sciences will create biotechnologies like smart contact lenses to test glucose levels in your tears. Calico will help you live forever. Fiber will transform the nation’s internet infrastructure. Nest will turn your home into the movie Minority Report. Plus, there will be investment groups to pour more money into robot armies and bionic organs and floating cities that broadcast health data. My point is, Alphabet is basically turning Google inside-out, putting all its weird X labs stuff on the outside and all its solid, money-making services and products on the inside.


In an SEC Filing today, you can see the news about Alphabet becoming a parent to Google, which is now just another Alphabet company alongside outfits like Google X, which will let a robot car drive your 300-year-old body around. The New York Times helpfully breaks down the difference between the old Google and its new parent company:

All the things you use are there on the right. All the weirdass stuff that you can’t even see, let alone use, is over there on the left. Only Nest even has a product you can buy. And those things on the left are now the meat of this company. Over at Re/code, Kara Swisher nails it:

Thus, the boring and mature stuff that pays for everything else will be watched over by the very stalwart [Sundar] Pichai, while the others get to play more with the business of the future that is much pricier.


This is about shuffling the money around, but it’s also about trying to lay claim to the future. It’s about Google trying to keep up with companies that are going into outer space and redesigning the physical contours of our lives with devices that change infrastructure instead of information. Will Alphabet be cool now that it’s all about living forever instead of search and YouTube?

I guess we’ll find out in the future — at least, the part of it that Alphabet hasn’t already bought.


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