An off-center post commemorating an off-center week.
I’ve been on vacation a few weeks back, driving more than 1,000 miles in between some of the most pristine day hikes in Virginia and North Carolina. Changing your routine almost always leads to a fresh perspective on issues you’ve been spending time thinking about, and this case was no different. I was thinking about Google.
Google has been desperately trying to diversify its lines of business further and further away from its search engine cash cow. Some of its more recent +$500M acquisitions were geared towards these new markets: Nest ($3.2B, home automation), Dropcam ($550M, home automation), Skybox Imaging ($500M, satellites), and Waze ($960M, GPS navigation). As well as its Moonshots portfolio: Google Glass, Project Loon and the Self-Driving Car project.
What all of those cutting-edge technology investments have in common, is that Google continues to apply them in the domain it knows best: directly to consumers. At least for Glass, that approach did not pan out well. Home automation does not seem to be panning out the way optimist may have expected. And when’s the last time we’ve heard about a new killer feature from Waze/Google Maps?
Consider a few (imaginary) press releases:
- Google announces a shift of its Self-Driving Car project to be focused on trucks rather than consumer cars, as well as a partnership with Wal-Mart to transition its entire truck fleet to be autonomous by 2025 (
- Google announces a partnership with Kaiser Permanente to equip surgeons in all of its hospitals with a Google Glass version customized to assist in surgeries (this is already sort-of happening)
- Google announces a new fork of the Android OS called Dandroid designed to become the operating system for all commercial drones
- Google announces a new product in its Maps portfolio called Waze Commercial aimed at becoming the platform for truck navigational assistance and freight tracking.
There are some interesting advantages in going with a businesses-first approach to adopting cutting edge technologies. An autocratic/centralized decision-making process, and a profit-driven motive can be leveraged to reach scale and drive adoption much quicker than in some direct-to-consumer scenarios.
There’s already regulatory progress in the UK to enable the testing of self-driving trucks. Meanwhile, companies like Airware (drones) and TruckerPath (trucks) are starting to capture incumbent positions with products that seem like not-so-radical extension of existing Google Products.
Granted, successfully building products for the enterprise requires a different type of corporate DNA than a consumer products company. But given that these growth areas are completely consistent with Google’s “to organize the world’s information…” mission, and Google’s sheer organizational size which should probably be able to support this kind of organizational diversity, if constructed thoughtfully, perhaps it’s time for a Google Commercial division?