I chuckled at that. When I worked there I participated in no less than a dozen "super secret" projects. Stealth was the standard operating mode. In engineering I attributed it to the somewhat interesting way in which recognition and promotions were handed out, which was to say if someone else got word of your idea/project and executed on it more quickly they could declare victory and take the glory. So keeping things secret until success was assured was the "smart" play. And it didn't hurt than when things went south you didn't have to take the blame since nobody knew you were working on it. A win-win situation as they say.
Levy makes it sound like a big deal they were being super secret but really? I suspect it was keeping things that might, or might not, happen in the future from becoming part of the questions at a TGIF meeting.
What the re-organization has done has put a spotlight on how much Alphabet is a one trick pony. It's a good trick, and a strong pony, but it doesn't translate into other markets. And several other organizations have been training their ponies hard and are taking away that specialness.
The current road Alphabet is on doesn't seem to me to end in a happy place, so I continue to watch them to see if they will find a way to turn off it.
"This is super-secret, therefore important. I was picked to work on important stuff, so I must be important".
This goes for everyone in the chain including managers "I am managing a team working on a super-secret project, I can't tell you about". That sounds a lot better than "I am managing a team which makes Uber but for dogs".
I suspect this is partly also why governments like to classify everything, even stuff that doesn't need to be -- it provides a level of importance and adds ceremony to everything. Which, in turns makes everyone involved feel important.
My experience was a bit different than ChuckMcM's; I was at Google a couple years later, and my perception was that it was a lot more open internally than any other company I've seen. But when projects were secret or semi-secret, it usually seemed like it was so that the team members could take risks without fear of criticism or ridicule. It's been my observation that for each famous product Google has released, there is some famous person inside Google who tried to kill it. Secrecy is a form of corporate anti-inflammatory, where it's a way of overcoming the natural immune response against any idea that is new and different.
I think it's a natural (good) road.
Alphabet should be a good opportunity for Google owners to invest in outside business with a lot of potencial, like Space X. When you are "just" Google, it's hard from a business view point to invest in outside business. It's more like acquisitions and fusions. But with a strong group like that, you can make more moves with investors money. And Alphabet have a lot.
If your bets isn't giving you good results, let's start put some coins outside. But it's just a teory (don't have actual facts to support).
The issue is other than ad words their other bets are not nearly as profitable.
PS: I suspect they probably spent less on self-driving cars than they gained back from that Halo.
In other words, by having so many diverse bets, investors in Alphabet have to buy into all of those bets. So the number of investors that believe in all of those bets is smaller than the sum of all investors that would invest in each one individually.
Google executives certainly think they're better and for the time being it seems investors agree.
It seems some* investors agree. There is no way to know how much more they could be worth if they were separate entities.
Wow, that sounds like a toxic environment, and I would hate to work at a place like that.
It hasn't been for lack of spending money, and it hasn't been for lack of "brand reach" or customer acquisition. It reminds me Sun's inability to make anything other than a Workstation when it needed to fight Microsoft on the engineering desktop. Sun was organizationally incapable of winning that fight, and Scott McNealy was unwilling or unable to see the changes that needed to be made to empower the company to do that. How? I think you have to look to companies that have been able to make profitable businesses out of new technologies or products that were distinctly different than their initial success. I don't see Google doing that effectively, and the people who I think were on track to make the changes that would have done that, people like Chris Urmson, leave the company (as the article points out). How is it the organization expells the very people it needs to retain in order to survive?
There is an apocryphal story of the #1 traveling circus that the author saw as a child, and when he finds it again as an adult it is bankrupt. He asks how that could be and the ringmaster tells him that the star of the show would never let any acts exist that would steal any part of the limelight or glory from his act, and then when the star died and there were no other acts and no reason for people
to attend the circus.
 From some recruiting hyperbole that they spammed out a while ago on LinkedIn.
IMO, it's because even if they do have the smartest engineers, the best engineering in the world can't fix a marketing problem. That's marketing not in the sense of ads and such, but in the sense of getting the right product into the right market at the right time. Just on the social network side, Facebook has a near-unbeatable network effect advantage, and Google+/Alphabet Social Network can never overcome that by making a better version of the same thing, no matter how awesome it is from a technical standpoint.
That's not to say that Facebook is invincible or anything - Facebook will go down some day, but it won't be because somebody else built a carbon-copy with a few more features and took their place.
That speaks to a lack of innovation though. Obviously Google shouldn't be trying to build a carbon copy—but they seem to be incapable of building anything besides that.
Plenty of startups have arisen to challenge Facebook (Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp). Why didn't Google build any of them? Especially when so many startups are founded by ex-Google engineers.
Or buy WhatsApp when they had the chance. That non-purchase is as perplexing an Yahoo's purchase of Tumblr.
>How? I think you have to look to companies that have been able to make profitable businesses out of new technologies or products that were distinctly different than their initial success.
That's a great concept to keep in mind. I've been a big gear head for most of my life, and only later on did I learn that a company like Mitsubishi or Volvo had additional heavy machinery lines, not just automobiles (I'm using the premise they were 'successful' and economics / leadership decisions / market forces notwithstanding). My thought is that you're touching greatly that a company's culture may have critical importance to being able to do such things.
It very much rings true to me after having a lot of low-level retail & some Fortune XXX gigs, and one of the ways I was able to understand it better was to write up a TV pilot / show idea about an R&D department in a toy company during the go-go 1980s. Exploring a culture of development, albeit with significant stakes & external competition, was actually really pleasant because I could (can still?) see Pros & Cons that, um, well define an overall culture. Pardon if I'm convoluted explaining it but I just really enjoyed exploring the concept as a wannabe inventor.
But Google tried and succeeded in making a phone operating system that ended up becoming dominant, that gives the rest of their services top billing. Imagine if Apple had kept a near-monopoly on the high end, and/or if the company that leveraged the gap they left at the low end had been Microsoft or BlackBerry.
At Google, you get promoted for launching something that is technically difficult. So most engineers will seek to implement the most technically difficult feature they have a chance of launching, and then do everything they can to ensure that it actually launches. Nobody gets promoted for not launching things and ensuring API stability. Nobody gets promoted for fixing bugs their managers doesn't know about. Few people get promoted for writing documentation (and if you do, you're probably a techwriter who doesn't call the shots on API design). Nobody gets promoted for doing mundane stuff that might improve the user experience, but isn't technically difficult.
It's the standard big-company modus operandi: hire the best, and incentivize them in ways where it's easy to define the incentives but those incentives don't necessarily add value to the customer. Usually by the time you get to that size, it doesn't matter anyway, since you're working on problems that no startup has the resources to tackle.
Then they announced the new CMake support and it's basically a CMake toolchain file they copied from an older OpenCV initiative and didn't notice it no longer worked with the new NDK, or anything other than GCC, which they have deprecated. It's insanity.
I had to dig out how it all works with the new cmake plugin from their samples, because the new stable plugin still doesn't manage ndk-build properly.
Also there are quite a few features, like OpenMP, that the clang NDK doesn't support, yet GCC is already deprecated.
But yeah the NDK is a mess and the whole environment around it is incredibly painful. Android Studio improved things but they still have a long way to go.
Source: I carried an Android (or several) as my primary device for seven years.
The largest suit that has been brought against them for Android has just been settled: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/05/google-wins-trial...
While the product might not even be that good, it has clear dominance of the mobile smartphone market in every country other than the US. In the US it's 43.1% market share (which is very strong).
There's no doubt that Google has managed to win this very important market.
Google once had the entire Brazilian social network share... And then, they just abandoned it. What I guess just reinforces your story at the last paragraph.
But instead it's just Google, and a bunch of highly experimental, low return, high risk other random companies with no particular strategy. How many labs are separate Alphabet companies? Why not just 1 lab that's supported by R&D concerns from the rest of the conglomerate? What isn't L for "Labs"? Does GV really need to be a separate company? Why isn't it just part of Google? Or why isn't GV "V for Venture?" That's okay, they also have Jigsaw, Google Capital and probably a bunch of internal investment arms.
Do they really need two genomics/life sciences companies?
Why are there so many different video companies, but youtube stays part of Google?
The approach is entirely disorganized and without any seeming strategy.
Presumably this is a reference to Verily vs. Calico. AFAICT, yes; or at least the two have distinct enough missions that it makes sense for them to be separate efforts. Calico is a very long payoff window effort starting with basic research aimed at lifespan enhancements, Verily is a shorter payoff timeline (but still fairly long window, given medical device, etc., commercialization timelines) medical device and treatment development effort.
I would agree with some of the assertions that yes Google is still Google and Alphabet seems almost non-present but I don't know if they have finished their integration / breaking apart of groups or really much of anything. I still think Android and some of the other parts of Google should probably be split out but I have no idea if that's the best choice for them or not.
I would love some more information on the whole formation of Alphabet. This, unfortunately, is not that article.
Can you give some examples? I'm mostly interested in what Android has compared to iOS?
It would be interesting if they explored it at least. In my opinion anyway.
So yeah, that would be difficult to split out.
It also integrates results from Dailymotion and others. YouTube would probably be the easiest property to spin out if it wasn't for the interest tracking data sharing.
Same with Youtube, Maps, etc. They exist to preserve the dominance of and prevent other companies from avoiding Google's key moneymaker, which is ads on searches. Thus allowing them any real independence would destroy their reason for existence.
[EDIT: The article has been edited to make the particular paragraph quoted above less nonsensical.]
> Alphabet is a weird company. Only one part of it makes significant profits: Google, whose revenues are humongous. [...]
>Wall Street seems to appreciate the Alphabet structure. In the last year, the stock price has risen over a hundred points and reached a record high this year, at a market cap of almost $550 billion. Its revenues virtually all come from the Google division, of course.
Its been rewritten to be somewhat less nonsensical (though the last sentence of that paragraph is now both redundant with other parts of the article and a non-sequitur in the paragraph it is included in.)
IMO Those are red herrings:
1) Fadell was extremely unpopular at the time of his departure after several missteps and lack of product releases. He was going to be shown the door regardless.
2) Bill Maris explanation is straight forward - he's super rich, just started a family, is sick of being on airplanes and phone calls 24/7 and literally CRUSHED IT as a VC on the weight of his Uber investment alone.
- Verily, formerly Google Life Sciences, is having similar CEO problems as NEST. Word has it Verily has a whole lot of nothing to show for all the money they've blown so far.
- Chris Urmson just left the Self-Driving Car program. From my understanding, of whatever the Self-Driving Car program allegedly managed to do (debatable), Urmson was pretty key in them doing it.
- Google Fiber just backed out of plans to dig fiber for a whole bunch of cities they said they would, and are now looking at some cheaper wireless broadcast option.
Also, I am almost certain that Tony Fadell was actually "fired". Being fired is always phrased as "resigning" when you're that rich. But yeah, NEST has been a paperweight since Google bought it. The only thing they've done is rebranded Dropcam. And apparently ruined the Dropcam team while doing it.
This is kind of a letdown for Google's people. Less going to TED and SXSW, more going to the Automotive Parts Suppliers Conference at the Marriott in Troy, Michigan. This may explain some of the turnover.
They did something similar in Android btw.
Furthermore, aren't these project designed and expected to not be profitable in the medium term, with the hope/prayer of huge, life altering payoffs for humanity "eventually"?