In the movie Inception a character says- “You must not be afraid to dream bigger”.
Archimedes – “Give me a fulcrum, and I shall move the world”.
When the leader of the Google internet balloons project posited that if all went well, Google might be able increase the Internet’s total bandwidth by 5%, Google CEO Larry Page asked why they couldn’t double or triple the global network’s capacity. “He wanted to make sure there was a moon shot after the moon shot,” says Astro Teller, who heads Google X. “Reminding us that his ambitions are this high,” Teller says, raising his hand well above his head, “helps people aspire to more.”
Apple today considers Google its No. 1 competitor. But tellingly, so do Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and a long list of lesser-known tech firms. “I don’t think we’ve seen a company like Google in technology,” says John Battelle, a serial entrepreneur and the author of The Search, a seminal book about the company’s early years. “It’s the whole package: the financial results, the reach in terms of what markets they touch, and the ambition.”
Google’s business success is undeniable. It has grown more than 20% annually for the past three years, with revenue topping $16 billion in the most recent quarter. Google’s cash hoard, about $37 billion when Page became CEO, has been growing too. The company is now sitting on some $62 billion in cash and equivalents. All that has allowed Page to invest even more aggressively in both Google’s core businesses and its far-flung projects. “I used to have this debate with Steve Jobs, and he would always say, ‘You guys are doing too much stuff,’ ” says Page. “He did a good job of doing one or two things really well.” While the formula worked wonders for Apple, Page says his vision for Google is different: “We’d like to have a bigger impact on the world by doing more things.”
Google’s original mission—“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”—once seemed preposterously audacious. Today that vision “is probably a bit too narrow,” Page says. He wants the company he co-founded as a Stanford grad student to continue altering the world in ways unimaginable to most.
Here are a few of its most ambitious bets.
1 HIGH-TECH BALLOONS
To reach the billions of people across the planet who are not online, Google is experimenting with high-tech balloons that would float in the stratosphere and beam down broadband. Today the balloons can stay up in the air for 100 days at a time. In tests they’re delivering speeds of 10 megabits per second.
Google’s newest, most secretive effort aims to turn medicine on its head: Ingestible “painted” nanoparticles that can bind to cancerous cells and other biomarkers in your body and allow scientists to “read” what they find. Cancer and other diseases may be detected as soon as they manifest.
In another secretive effort, last year Google acquired a handful of the buzziest robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics and Schaft. There’s a four-legged robot called BigDog that can carry large loads and some two-legged humanoids that are good at getting around autonomously.
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