Google’s first-quarter earnings beat Wall Street expectations, aided by a lower tax rate and a research credit. Even though the stock moved on the numbers, it was what was said on the call that was most important. CEO Larry Page said on the conference call that it is his job to make sure that Google and its engineers are working on big, bold bets to not only advance the company and its earnings, but society as well. “A big part of my job is to get people to focus on things that are not just incremental,” Page said during the earnings call. Google is working on ambitious projects, such as Google Fiber, self-driving cars and other projects like Google Glass “because no one else is crazy enough to try.”
Page seemed to take a shot at Apple with the remark that Google can’t just be content to do incremental improvements on its existing products; it needs to expand its horizons. Google has spent countless billions of dollars in research and development, something that has always concerned Wall Street. The spending issue was brought up again on the call, but Google has earned the right to spend as it sees fit. Products like Glass, Fiber and Android have whet Wall Street’s appetite for their potential. They have only come through years of spending, as well as timely acquisitions, especially in the case of Android.
There are still concerns about Android fragmentation, with the operating system available on so many different handsets, and all of them running a different version with various tweaks. While Page acknowledged the experiences vary by device, he called it “a pretty great overall experience.” He noted smartphone manufacturers are doing a lot with Android, which is leading to innovation and flexibility, giving customers what they want. This could only be achieved by spending and experimentation, and Google has shown that spending levels are more than adequate to satisfy customers’ needs and to expand into other areas to change the world.
On the call, Page revealed that Android will power Google Glass. The power and reach of Android is expanding and transportable across devices, and I’d expect that to continue.
Google Fiber may be the most important aspect of Google’s business when it comes to changing the world. While laying down a network is a capital-intensive business (currently it’s only in Kansas City, with plans to expand to Austin, TX and Provo, UT), Fiber offers benefits that can solve not only tomorrow’s problems, but today’s as well. Google Fiber is 100 times faster than the average Internet connection in the U.S., and Page noted it’s “about writing next chapter of the Internet. Products like Fiber, we look at things where we can impact a lot of people’s lives.”
Google has earned the right to spend as aggressively as it wants, as it continues to move into nascent areas outside of its core search business. Google may always be focused on delivering ads and information to users as its primary cash cow, but the company continues to find new ways to do so, in ways we never thought possible.
Perhaps Google’s motto shouldn’t be “Don’t be evil,” but rather “Don’t doubt us.”