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Larry Page: Deconstructing the sadness

Jason Snell | May 17, 2013
Jason Snell analyzes Google CEO Larry Page's speech at Wednesday's Google I/O keynote.

But most importantly, he thinks that Google's growth opportunities are greater in new areas, ones that don't involve scaling up existing Google online products. Making those bigger can be a headache, while entirely new categories (such as self-driving cars) are much more manageable.

We also think it's a way that the company can scale. I think that to the extent that all our products are interrelated, we actually need to do a fair amount of management of those projects to make sure you get a seamless experience, both as a user and a developer, that all makes sense. When we do some of these other kinds of things, like automated cars, they have a longer time-frame and less interaction. I actually encourage maybe more companies to try to do things that are a little outside their comfort zone, because I think it gets them more scalability in what they can get done.

And it turns out that, at least for Google, those crazy projects don't cost too much--so they're definitely a risk worth taking:

We've been surprised, also, even when we do things that are kind of crazy, like these automated cars, it turns out... the technology for doing mapping and automated cars turns out to be the same. And so we have a bunch of great engineers that just moved over from those efforts, and they did it naturally, and scalably.

People said you're nuts, you're a search company, why are you doing Gmail? Because we understood some things about data centers and serving and storage that we applied to email. And that was a great thing that we did that. And so I think almost every time we try to do something crazy we've made progress. Not all the times, but almost every time.

And the good news is, too, no matter how much money we try to spend on automated cars or Gmail in the early stages, they end up being small checks. So they don't really cause a business issue, either. So I'm really excited about that. And I tried to talk about that in my remarks. That's why I say we're at one percent of what's possible.

Taking the long view
Another insight into the way Page sees things: Several times he talked about taking the "50-year view" of things. He's not just focused on what Google can do in its next fiscal quarter. He appears to be someone who is genuinely thinking about the long-term effects of technology, and in investment in technological development.

In my very long-term world view--you know, 50 years from now or something--hopefully, our software understands deeply what you're knowledgeable about, what you're not, and how to organize the world so that the world can solve important problems. You know, people are starving in the world not because we don't have enough food. It's 'cause we're not organized to solve that problem. And our computers aren't helping us do that.


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