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Google’s Products Are Just By-Products Of Its Quest For Tomorrow

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Google isn’t about search, apps or devices. Those are just vehicles, and there’s no destination. That’s because Larry Page’s Google is on an unending pursuit of the future, not just next quarter’s earnings. The scattershot of projects Google revealed today at I/O had just one unifying factor: They further that pursuit, or empower the curiosity of others.

Google is lucky. It takes a lot of fuel to shoot for the moon. Fuel that most tech companies don’t have or are unwilling to burn. But Google has ads that pay for everything the company does. The armies of employees, the seas of servers, and the laboratories for experimenting in both the digital and physical worlds.

I talked to a Google Chrome engineer the other night. He described his job as almost academic. No one ever talks about money — how much things cost or how much they would make. His job is simply to let people access information as quickly and efficiently as possible. That’s the future, and a browser is just the by-product.

Google didn’t launch its new on-demand subscription service Google Play Music All Access just because it wanted to get into music; Android is Google’s push to see the potential of our phones. Music is a fundamental companion to being on the go, so why not let people listen to any song they want? All Access was just something Google had to do to see our lifestyles merge with mobile computing.

Digital communication shouldn’t just be a degraded version of talking with someone in person. When we can share, emote and collaborate seamlessly no matter where we are or what device we’re on, brilliant things will happen. So out springs a new cross-platform messaging version of Hangouts. Google isn’t trying to desperately win market share and engagement with today’s big revamp of Google Maps, it’s just another step towards the future of navigation.

Google also wants to accelerate other intrepid explorers chasing what’s next. Today it gave developers new cloud messaging capabilities, Android Studio for testing apps, extra location APIs, and an easy app translation service. It knows it can’t unlock the future by itself, so it lets others forge their own keys.

Page On The EdgeCompare all this to the other tech giants who seem myopically focused on today’s wars for display ad and mobile hardware dollars. Apple and Samsung seem busy with another iteration of their latest smartphone, or linear innovation for watches and TVs. Even if Apple is secretly concocting wetware computers that go inside our bodies, it still seems to be in service of building “beautiful” products and making money. Facebook has its hands full with mobile with projects like Home, and Amazon is making TV shows.

They all seem vulnerable. One or two flops away from fading. A crummy iPhone, a hip new social app, and suddenly the tides could turn. Meanwhile, Google has leapfrogged into the next decade with exponential innovation.

And that’s the plan. Google’s CEO Larry Page said on stage “we should be building things that don’t exist.” {Update: After the keynote I talked with co-founder Sergey Brin who explained “It’s important to be willing to take risks, and we do take risks, I’m very excited about these [tapping the Google Glass he was currently wearing]. We’re willing to make bets. Some of them pan out, some of them don’t. But I think there are a lot of companies that as they grow they become more conservative.”}

Google doesn’t have to be conservative. Search, maps, Android — they aren’t going to disappear. And with that foundation, Google is free to try, tinker and even fail. But when it fails, it learns, and for Google, that’s the whole point.