An Insider Look At Google

Google is really an Engineering company.
Approach: We’ll build great useful hardcore engineering products.
Like some of the employees coming up with G-Mail (in “20% of their time” [9] or so they say!).



Not a consumer-centric company. Not much thought on design, UI-UX, human interactions.
Design? Well, use Big Data, A/B testing and other “Engineering” approaches to find out what users want.”


It is so much Engineering focused (“We are an Engineering company [10] “) that – even Researchers work alongside Engineers [11] [12] – working on tough problems.
In fact, that’s how “Mapreduce” [1] was born – to solve distributed processing challenges that Google face. 

[Google didn’t built an expensive supercomputer when it got stared back in 1998/99. It was too expensive to build one. 
Rather, connected hundreds, and later thousands of computers to form a cluster.]
No separate research division like Microsoft Research [4].
That means very little long term work (but that was before GoogleX).




Google is not and cannot enjoy the luxury of being a traditional product development company, because its products are built upon cutting edge research. It’s like : you research and you implement your invention in a product. 
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin were working on Data Mining & Web Search for their PhD and came up with “PageRank” algorithm [17] and implemented it as the Search Engine.
  • Google Research invented “Mapreduce” [1] and implemented it in their system.
  • When Google started putting Ads in search results (as a way to monetize) results in the beginning weren’t satisfactory. [Reference: How Google works] But Page and Brin couldn’t afford to say, well, we have this and that problem in our ad results and we should have a product that should be “this”.  
    • No. Because no one knew how to show ads in the best possible way. So you could not have a definite product development plan from the start. You had to “research” (“re-search” means “searching” continuously until you found a better solution) to find an algorithm that optimizes your revenue respecting the goals of businesses who are paying money for those ads.

  

So Google gives a lot of freedom to its Engineers to come up with great ideas. According to Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, these Engineers are called “Smart Creatives”. [Reference: How Google works] 
No initial, “must-be-followed” plans; rather come up with great solutions yourselves. 
Google is built on and lives on talented Engineers.

GoogleX Approach: 
“So here is a futuristic technology that looks promising and conforms to our Moonshot thinking [3]” (like DARPA Autonomus Car challenge [5]
=> “Lets develop it at GoogleX”.
Brainchild of GoogleX include 

  • Google Self Driving Car
  • Google Glass 
  • Project Ara [2] (modular phone).



Almost completely depended on Ad revenues (95% revenue) [6].

“Google TV didn’t succeeded” -> “Doesn’t matter” -> “Lots of revenue from Search Ads (+ Now, Youtube, Mobile Ads)”.


Google should focus more on “products”

Focusing on “Products” means user-centric approach: “What does the user want in a Smart TV?” 


What Apple (Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive [7]) does: 

“Lets make a Phone (product) that users would love” -> iPhone was born.

[The classic story of Jonny [7] coming up with a great design and
the “intuitive”, “creative (creativity induced by LSD)” Jobs [14] declaring “This is the future!” [13]
whether the “analytic” “Software-focused” Gates likes it or not! (who, according to Jobs, never understood how to turn great products combining both hardware and software into a single whole)]


  • Google started off with Search. 
  • Next: 
    • Platforms (Chrome and Android) and 
    • Services (G-Mail, Google+, Google Apps). 
  • Now: 
    • Diversified (including Autonomous Cars, Smart Home and $250 Million investments in drug research – “Calico”).


Google products

Search and Web Apps

  • Search Engine 
  • Youtube 
  • GMail 
  • Google+ 
  • Google Maps 
  • Google Adsense, Analytics 
  • Google Apps 
  • Google App Engine



Chrome

  • Chrome Browser 
  • ChromeOS




Android

  • Android Wear 
  • Google Now 
  • Google Play Store



“Moonshot Thinking”
GoogleX, ATAP

  • Google Glass 
  • Project Ara 
  • Google Self Driving Car
  • Project Loon [8]


Others:

  • Google Ventures 
  • Google TV – Android TV 
  • Google Wallet 
  • Shopping Express




Recent acquisitions and diversification:

  • Calico 
  • Nest 
  • Boston Dynamics & Other Robotics Companies (8 in total) 
  • Titan Aerospace 
  • Skybox Imaging




Imagine: Tahsin starting his own company. It won’t take too many years to turn my company into the World’s first Trllion Dollar company. 



 

Reference

  1. The Paper that introduced “Mapreduce” 
  2. Project Ara 
  3. Thinking big: Larry Page talks moon shots 
  4. Microsoft Research 
  5. DARPA Grand Challenge 
  6. Google Inc. Announces First Quarter 2014 Results 
  7. Jonathan Ive
  8. Project Loon 
  9. Google’s “20 percent time” in action – Google’s Official Blog 
  10. Google Mountain View (Global HQ) 
  11. Research At Google 
  12. Google’s Hybrid Approach to Research : Alfred Spector, Peter Norvig and Slav Petrov 
  13. Steve Jobs Unveils The Original iPhone – Macworld San Francisco 2007 
  14. Steve Jobs [Hardcover] by Walter Isaacson
  15. How Facebook Got Big 
  16. How Web Search Engines Work 
  17. The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine : Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page 

Followups

  1. How Google Works Hardcover – (September 23, 2014) by Eric Schmidt , Jonathan Rosenberg 

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