Google’s policy of openness seems to permeate everything it does. In fact, this week’s sneak peak at “Project Glass,” the company’s new connected glasses, is in stark contrast to the shadowy world of Apple product development.
Google CEO Larry Page continued the company’s tradition of transparency with a lengthy open letter posted on Google’s official blog, which details Page’s first year as the company’s chief executive.
In the letter, Page talked about how his first task after taking the helm at Google was to run a “cleanup” effort, discarding more than 30 projects in limbo – Knol and Sidewiki – and giving visual refreshes to products like Google Search and Gmail.
“Google has so many opportunities that, unless we make some hard choices, we end up spreading ourselves too thin and don’t have the impact we want,” Page wrote.
But that trial-and-error approach to R&D has become engrained as part of Google’s foundation. Page noted that “it’s easier to make progress on mega-ambitious goals than on less risky projects,” adding that “‘failed’ ambitious projects often yield other dividends.”
Google’s AdSense, which has paid more than $30 billion to partners, was the result of what Page called a “failed” more ambitious project to understand the Web.
“The team failed at understanding the Web,” he wrote, “mostly, I think, because they were distracted by their work making advertisements amazingly relevant.”
On the mobile side, Page expressed his excitement about Android but admitted that evolving the mobile platform hasn’t been easy. Page recounted his first meeting with Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, back in 2004.
“At the time, developing apps for mobile devices was incredibly painful. We had a closet full of over 100 phones, and we were building our software pretty much one device at a time,” Page wrote. “Andy believed that aligning standards around an open source operating system would drive innovation across the mobile industry. At the time, most people thought he was nuts.”
Rubin just happened to be right, and Android’s numbers prove it. Today, more than 850,000 devices are activated daily through a network of 55 manufacturers and more than 300 carriers.
Page outlined the company’s long-term focus, which rests heavily on core businesses, including search advertising and online services. But mobile advertising, too, has become the next big opportunity. Page included mobile in the category of “emerging high-usage products,” which he said likely will generate significant new revenue streams for Google, as well as for the company’s partners.
“For example, we’re seeing a hugely positive revenue impact from mobile advertising,” Page wrote, “which grew to a run rate of over $2.5 billion by the third quarter of 2011 –two and a half times more than at the same point in 2010.”
Page is co-founder of Google with Sergey Brin. Page took the reins at Google after the company announced during a January 2011 earnings call that then-CEO Eric Schmidt would be stepping down from his post.
Schmidt is now the non-CEO executive chairman at Google, while Brin has an advisory role as co-founder.