Just Google it. The word is synonymous with searching the Web. But given the sweeping goals of the company, the word Google might come to mean something else in pop culture. Google made a big move Monday, announcing plans to acquire Nest Labs for $3.2 billion. With Nest on board Google continues to position itself to change the world on a grand scale. Here are seven reasons why Google’s future will be incredibly interesting:
1. They now have a key player behind the iPod and iPhone on their side.
Before he was CEO of Nest, Tony Fadell led the Apple team that developed the iPod. He’s sometimes called “the Podfather” and had a hand in the iPhone as well. This is huge for Google, a company that has lacked a hip, aesthetic touch. Google Glass looks like something for cyborgs. Apple has long had talent for making beautiful objects that can win mainstream acceptance. Take one look at the Nest Thermostat or Nest Protect and you’ll be struck by its looks. With at least 100 former Apple employees now joining Google, a lack of elite design instincts is addressed.
2. The Internet of Things is exploding, and Google has its hottest products.
Not long ago, a phone was something you simply placed calls on. Now, a smartphone can be used as flashlight, alarm clock, pocketwatch, calculator, GPS, camera and more. The gadgets smartphones don’t kill off will be reinvented too with computer chips and online access. We’re realizing the potential of the Internet of Things, in which everyday objects harness the power of digital chips and Internet access.
Nest’s two products — a thermostat and smoke detector — have received near universal praise. Fadell’s team has a secret sauce and an advantage over everyone else in this space. Whatever unloved household device they seek to reinvent next will likely be a hit.
3. The self-driving car may be the most important innovation of the 21st century.
Motorized vehicles kill 1.24 million people per year worldwide. That number is on pace to triple to 3.6 million by 2030. Self-driving cars offer a solution. Who happens to be a key player in this space? Google.
4. They’re hoarding robots for who knows what.
Google bought eight robotics companies in 2013 to pursue what it admits is a “moonshot.” One of those companies won the DARPA robotics challenge in December, which suggests that Google has a leg up on competitors. It’s been reported that its early robotics efforts will focus on electronics assembly and manufacturing. Instead of limiting itself to its core business of Web search, Google has expanded its tentacles into whatever it finds interesting or potentially world changing. It even bought a company that makes airborne wind turbines.
5. Google is quietly building a telecom network.
Google controls more than 100,000 miles of fiber-optic cables around the world, according to the Wall Street Journal. For comparison’s sake, that’s more than twice the size of Sprint’s network. They’re experimenting with Google Fiber, which brings uncommonly fast Internet to a nation that is lagging behind the world in Internet speeds. While Google Fiber’s current reach is limited, its existence is a reminder to consumers and rival Internet providers that better service can and should exist. If the country that invented the Internet is going to lead the world in Internet speeds, Google Fiber will nudge us forward.
6. They’d like to cheat death.
You’ve heard the expression — nothing is certain but death and taxes. But it may not even be a certainty if Google has its way. Its funding Calico, which will tackle aging and related diseases.
7. Google doesn’t care for convention or precedent.
Companies, individuals and armies falter when they expect the future to resemble the past. Because the past is all we know, imagining the future is a challenge. “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future,” media theorist Marshall McLuhan once wrote. Google doesn’t have this problem.
“Don’t be surprised if we invest in projects that seem strange or speculative compared with our existing Internet businesses,” Google CEO Larry Page wrote in September. He’s open to radical and different thinking. His idea as a Stanford grad student of downloading the entire Web onto a computer may have seemed crazy, but it was the foundation of Google.
As Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer once put it, “Larry’s superpower is asking ‘Why not? Why does it have to be this way?’ ” Page’s outlook is the perfect fit for leading a company in an era of revolutionary technology.
Google says its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. With these new ventures a more accurate — and appropriately shorter — slogan might be “reorganizing the world.”
Eventually our planet will see a company with a market cap of $1 trillion. If Google can put all the pieces together and keep innovating, they have a good chance. Whether they succeed or not, the road ahead will be exciting.