Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google Can Still Find Time for Self-Driving Cars, and It Doesn’t Expect You to Understand Why

Larry Page has made a point of “cleaning up” Google during his first year as CEO by killing off some side projects that weren’t going anywhere.

But Google is still taking fliers on oddities like self-driving cars and computerized eyewear, and that’s not going to stop.

The challenge, Page said today during the company’s earnings call, is figuring out which of those fliers to take. Google has plenty of money to throw at this stuff, but a limited amount of time.

Here’s his answer to an analyst question about crazy projects the company might have up its sleeve, and whether it is still committed to its 70/20/10 plan, where employees are supposed to spend a tenth of their time on far-out stuff.

We’ve got a limited number of things we can do. As I’ve been saying, we’ve been trying to focus. So [we’re] trying to make sure that we have the right speculative bets, as well as the right bets we’re making on our core products, and so on. I’m pretty excited about our ability to do that.

I think it’s hard coming from the outside. Because as I mentioned in the letter I published today, Android took three years plus three years, kind of, to get to really where it is today. That’s six years. And you all haven’t seen Android for those six years. We’ve seen it for the six years, and we really invested in it.

It’s not so much money in the earlier stages but attention. And that’s an important discipline for the company to have.

Shorter answer: We know what we’re doing, and that includes the stuff that looks nutty to people who don’t work at the Googleplex. Hence the not-exactly-a-stock-split, which is supposed to let Page use Google stock to pay employees and to pay for acquisitions, without losing control of the company.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle