Monday, August 10, 2015

Google folds itself into a new "entity" called "Alphabet" -- in search of new ways to suck?


A sneak peek at the planned logo for "Alphabet," the
"collection of companies" Google has folded itself into

"Google now touches nearly every aspect of Internet connected life thanks to its search engine, e-mail service, YouTube and Android smartphone operating system. But it's also turned its eye away from those core products to try and answer the larger questions about what technology can do for society at large."
-- Hayley Tsukayama, Washington Post consumer-technology
writer, in
"Google becomes part of a new company, Alphabet"

by Ken

Time for a quick question, Hayley? Up there where you say that Google has "also turned its eye away from those core products to try and answer the larger questions about what technology can do for society at large," you didn't by chance mean that Google wants to answer the larger questions about what technology can do to society, did you? Okay, just asking. I guess this is the way the Googleberries think of it -- or rather the Alphabetniks, I guess we should call them, now that Google is merely part of "Alphabet," which is Google but oh-so-much more. Heaven help us.

Okay, I'm hardly a disinterested observer. I've made no secret of the fact that I think Google sucks. Why, I've even offered helpful corporate slogans to goose the brand, like "GOOGLE: The G stands for Crappy." No compensation required.

The obvious question, now that Google has created this larger entity to, er, include itself (and, as we shall see, the Alphabet People are by and large the Same Old Google People -- only, you know, grander, maybe more metaphysical), can the new entity be said to pre-suck?

If you haven't heard the news, you may not know what I'm talking about. Here's the short version, courtesy of the Washington Post's above-referenced Hayley Tsukayama:
Google chief executive Larry Page on Monday announced that the tech giant is undergoing a major restructuring and will become a wholly owned subsidiary of a new conglomerate known as Alphabet.

The move, Page said, will allow Google to focus more on its core products, including its search engine, while Alphabet manages a variety of different businesses, from driver-less cars to drones.
And here's the long version, from the horse's mouth, as it were, Google Alphabet CEO Larry Page:

G is for Google

Posted: Monday, August 10, 2015

As Sergey and I wrote in the original founders letter 11 years ago, “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.” As part of that, we also said that you could expect us to make “smaller bets in areas that might seem very speculative or even strange when compared to our current businesses.” From the start, we’ve always strived to do more, and to do important and meaningful things with the resources we have.

We did a lot of things that seemed crazy at the time. Many of those crazy things now have over a billion users, like Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome, and Android. And we haven’t stopped there. We are still trying to do things other people think are crazy but we are super excited about.

We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant.

Our company is operating well today, but we think we can make it cleaner and more accountable. So we are creating a new company, called Alphabet ( I am really excited to be running Alphabet as CEO with help from my capable partner, Sergey, as President.

What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main Internet products contained in Alphabet instead. What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity). Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren’t very related. Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence. In general, our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed. We will rigorously handle capital allocation and work to make sure each business is executing well. We'll also make sure we have a great CEO for each business, and we’ll determine their compensation. In addition, with this new structure we plan to implement segment reporting for our Q4 results, where Google financials will be provided separately than those for the rest of Alphabet businesses as a whole.

This new structure will allow us to keep tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities we have inside of Google. A key part of this is Sundar Pichai. Sundar has been saying the things I would have said (and sometimes better!) for quite some time now, and I’ve been tremendously enjoying our work together. He has really stepped up since October of last year, when he took on product and engineering responsibility for our Internet businesses. Sergey and I have been super excited about his progress and dedication to the company. And it is clear to us and our board that it is time for Sundar to be CEO of Google. I feel very fortunate to have someone as talented as he is to run the slightly slimmed down Google and this frees up time for me to continue to scale our aspirations. I have been spending quite a bit of time with Sundar, helping him and the company in any way I can, and I will of course continue to do that. Google itself is also making all sorts of new products, and I know Sundar will always be focused on innovation -- continuing to stretch boundaries. I know he deeply cares that we can continue to make big strides on our core mission to organize the world's information. Recent launches like Google Photos and Google Now using machine learning are amazing progress. Google also has some services that are run with their own identity, like YouTube. Susan is doing a great job as CEO, running a strong brand and driving incredible growth.

Sergey and I are seriously in the business of starting new things. Alphabet will also include our X lab, which incubates new efforts like Wing, our drone delivery effort. We are also stoked about growing our investment arms, Ventures and Capital, as part of this new structure.

Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly-traded entity and all shares of Google will automatically convert into the same number of shares of Alphabet, with all of the same rights. Google will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet. Our two classes of shares will continue to trade on Nasdaq as GOOGL and GOOG.

For Sergey and me this is a very exciting new chapter in the life of Google -- the birth of Alphabet. We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity's most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha-bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for! I should add that we are not intending for this to be a big consumer brand with related products--the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.

We are excited about…

• Getting more ambitious things done.
• Taking the long-term view.
• Empowering great entrepreneurs and companies to flourish.
• Investing at the scale of the opportunities and resources we see.
• Improving the transparency and oversight of what we’re doing.
• Making Google even better through greater focus.
• And a result of all this, improving the lives of as many people as we can.

What could be better? No wonder we are excited to get to work with everyone in the Alphabet family. Don’t worry, we’re still getting used to the name too!

Posted by Larry Page, CEO
Disclosure time: I didn't actually read every word of Larry's post. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't. (No, it's not enough to know that he and Sergey are really excited.)

So what does this all mean? Let's go back to Hayley's report.
The move comes as Google struggles to maintain focus as its portfolio grows and its interests spread across various industries. That sprawl has recently attracted criticism from investors, who wondered whether the company could remain innovative with so many distractions.

Page will be chief executive of Alphabet, while Google co-founder Sergey Brin will become president. Sundar Pichai, who is Google's senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps, will become Google's chief executive.

Pichai, who has been a Google employee since 2004, has risen steadily through the company’s ranks. The soft-spoken executive has taken on much of the day-to-day duties of running Google during the past couple of years. He joined as a member of the Chrome team and was credited by Page for making the browser fast, simple and secure. He added Android to his portfolio of responsibilities in 2013. Pichai's reputation as a team player has made him popular within the company, and he has lead the company's keynote presentations for more than a year.

As of last October, Pichai has also been in charge of product and engineering responsibilities for Google's Internet businesses, as Page and Brin have turned more attention to side products.
And as you know, assuming you read every word of Larry's post, Larry and Sergey "have been super excited about [Sundar's] progress and dedication to the company," and it's clear to them and to their board "that it is time for Sundar to be CEO of Google." Way to go, Sundar!

As for the other Google boys and girls, Hayley tells us:
Most of the top Google executives will become Alphabet executives, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat and chief legal officer David Drummond will take up corresponding positions within Alphabet. Porat will also remain the CFO of Google.


You probably know all this, but can you quote the current cash value of Google? I didn't think so. So just sit still and read this. You're responsible for all of this material on the midterm.
Google, one of the few companies to actually become a verb, hardly needs introduction. The firm was started by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1997, after the two met as students at Stanford University. Before Google, the two worked together on a search engine called BackRub, which they operated on the servers at Stanford for more than a year. The pair registered the domain name "" on Sept. 17, 1998, with the mission to organize all of the world's information.

The company went public in 2004. It is worth $443.9 billion and handles an estimated 67 percent of the country's desktop searches and 83 percent of its mobile searches, according to ComScore. Internationally, NetMarketShare puts Google's global desktop search share at 70 percent.

While the company has always held search at its core, it has expanded into several different areas.
Which kind of brings us back to, you know, that "criticism from investors, who wondered whether the company could remain innovative with so many distractions." (By the way, if you were thinking of slamming $443.9 billion down on the table with a view to buying Google, you should know that, as Hayley reports, "Google shares were up nearly 6 percent in after-hours trading on the news, to about $671 per share." But you know how those kids on Wall Street are -- they often get, you know, a little carried away.)


You know, all the innovation and all the distractions. And I realize that in the practical and conceptual cosmos that Google bestrides, I'm just a mite of a mote out on the fringe. But I have to use the effing software they bestowed on our bloghost, Blogger, after they acquired it. I guess it was nice that they thought to do an overhaul to make the software better. It's just that they turned the job over to a team of imbeciles who have apparently never used the software, and never plan to. Or possibly to some Googleberry's idiot nephew. And nobody seemed to care that what they -- or he -- produced often functions more like a virus than like software, arbitrarily reaching into the hapless blogger's code and "tweaking" it into unintelligibility. Not to mention reaching into the hapless blogger's computers and festooning them with the software-code equivalent of chewing gum to slow them down and even make them crawl to a screeching halt.

Why just now, as I glanced at the code for this post as it takes shape, I had to go in and extract a bunch of non-breaking spaces that the blog software had unilaterally inserted. Don't get me started on non-breaking spaces, which don't do what Google's Idiot Nephew seems to think they do. And I could offer you a million more like this, but Google doesn't care, so why should you?


As for other stuff that Google has either created or acquired: I think Gmail sucks just as bad as, and more flamboyantly than, AOL Mail, for which those of us who still use it are so royally ridiculed; I have no use for Google accounts, let alone Google-Plus, which I can't even figure out what it is; I hate Android, which I also haven't figured out how to use in the nearly four years I've had Android phones (I took an educational session at the public library and came out understanding less than when I went in); and You Tube, despite its undeniable points of interest, seems to me a major blight of our time, in terms of the amount of mental and physical energy wasted on it.

All that said, there was one corner of the Googleverse for which I used to harbor warm feelings, even admiration: Google Maps. To begin with, I'm a map person from way back, and especially for my extensive wanderings about my local area, I came to consider Google Maps a godsend (which no, is not the same thing as a Google-send). My amazement grew as I discovered how effectively, even with my limited technical expertise, I could not just locate places or areas I was looking for but then size and crop wonderfully useful maps on a plain old b&w printer.

So then, naturally, they went and "improved" it. For a while, the software would warn, anytime I accessed it from either of the two computers I principally use, that said computers did not meet the system requirements of the improved software but that I would be allowed to use a specially devised version of the software, a version that was apparently devised for morons, which was basically a shade this side of useless. Now that warning seems to be gone, and I just get the moron version of the software, which is okay on-screen but seems incapable of printing out anything but a moron version of the region of the map you've customized, a moron map that looks like it was created by a three-year-old who was allowed to glance at the original for a few seconds and was then asked to draw the things he/she remembers from it.

I worked out a Rube Goldberg-style work-around for something I was able to do without great difficulty with the unimproved Google Maps software: do a screen grab of the portion of the map I want to print out, then print that file. But I'm confident that the Google Software Commando Team is working on a way to make this impossible.

Of course it's my fault for continuing to use computers that Time Has Passed By, and never mind that they happen to do all the things I need them to do, or they would be able to if the dubiously "improved" generations of software hadn't designed them into obsolescence, and it doesn't matter that I don't need or want to do any of the wonderful new things that the newer hardware and software have been empowered to do.

In this Google is hardly alone. I understand that I'm meant to buy new computers, but in fact one of the two computers I use isn't under my control, and as for the one that is, well, I don't wanna buy a new computer. This one used to be able to do all the things I needed it to do, and it still could if it were allowed to.


But if I were Google (or "Alphabet," or "Horse's Patoot," or whatever they want to call themselves), I don't know that I would consider this something to brag about.

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