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Magid On Tech: Looking Forward To Big Things From Alphabet, Google's New Parent

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_28632650

Disclosure: Larry Magid is CEO of ConnectSafely.org, a nonprofit Internet safety organization that receives contributions from Google and other tech companies.

 
 

I was stunned when I first learned that Google was reorganizing itself with the new corporate name Alphabet that would serve as a holding company of sorts for all of Google's separate businesses, including Google itself.

 
 

But the more I thought about the arrangement, the more I realized that it actually makes some sense.

 
 

The new Alphabet will have current CEO Larry Page as its CEO, with Google co-founder Sergey Brin as president and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt playing the same role in the new corporation. Google itself will continue to exist as one of the many companies under the Alphabet umbrella.

 
 

The CEO of the new, slightly smaller Google will be run by Sundar Pichai, who currently runs Google's main products including search, Android and Gmail, but will now also have the head of YouTube reporting to him. Other companies under the Alphabet umbrella will include Nest, the maker of the smart thermostat and other Internet-connected devices that Google acquired last year. Calico, which focuses on longevity, will also be in the fold, along with numerous other current Google projects including Google Glass, self-driving cars and a contact lens that can detect blood glucose levels.

 
 

Stockholders may appreciate that the new Alphabet will separately report financial information for each of its companies, which may make it easier for financial analysts and investors to better understand how each of the many parts of Google is performing.

 
 

It's also a way to formally recognize that there are projects under the new company that are, as Larry Page sometimes calls them, "Moon shots," which may or may not ever see the light of day but remain worth pursuing.

 
 

The move didn't placate Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based nonprofit that has, for several years, been complaining that Google violates user privacy, among other alleged sins.

"A rose by any other name is still a rose and Google by any other name is still the Internet giant," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director. He added that, "Alphabet through what will now be called its subsidiary will continue to track us around the Web and build digital dossiers about us. It makes little difference to Google's users."

Whether or not you agree with Simpson's criticism of Google, he is correct that renaming the corporation won't have a huge immediate impact on consumers, though there are some that say that the new organization will be more nimble and more entrepreneurial, which could eventually trickle down to average Google users.

Personally, I'm all for the deal if it keeps the company that will soon no longer be called Google as an innovator willing to make very big and risky bets. Back in 1998, when Google launched, search was a big bet and it was also a pretty big bet when Google launched Gmail and when it acquired Android.

Yes, big bets can lead to giant losses but they can also lead to revolutionary enhancements and I'm hoping to see at least a few of those from the new Alphabet.

Email Larry Magid at larry@larrymagid.com.