Google's Alphabet could give mHealth more freedom

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund
09:31 am

Google's reorganization isn't expected to affect its mHealth interests that much, though it could allow the Internet giant to take a few more chances with new technology like the much-maligned Google Glass.

In splitting into the Google brand and a bunch of subsidiaries under the "Alphabet" name, company co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said they giving their non-Internet interests more room to roam.

"What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies," Page wrote in an Aug. 10 blog post. "The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main Internet products contained in Alphabet instead. What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity)."

Google's background is obviously in Internet searches, where it made a profit by combining that with advertising. From that platform, however, sprung a number of interests, like YouTube, Android, Fiber, Google Ventures, Google Play and the Google X research and development lab, from which emerged such concepts as driverless cars, Google Glass (since shipped off to another department under Nest founder Tony Fadell) and smart contact lenses (now in development with Novartis). Calico, meanwhile, was launched in 2013 with a focus on "health and well-being, in particular the challenge of ageing and associated diseases."

"Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren't very related," Page wrote. "Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence."

Others feel this new setup will give projects like Google Glass more of a start-up feel.

"While Google could easily fund ambitious project through Google X, launching those projects into a Google division or a standalone business has proven awkward," Russell Brandom wrote in The Verge. "Under Alphabet, those projects will be nudged back in the startup direction, with more financial options when a project succeeds and more accountability when a project fizzles out."

With the new structure, Page will become chief executive of Alphabet and Brin will be its president, while Sundar Pichai will move from senior vice president to CEO of Google and current Chairman Eric Schmidt will move to executive chairman of the holding company.

Analysts say the restructuring should give investors – and the public in general – more insight into what Google has been investing in its non-core businesses, such as Google Glass.

"There's been a lot of speculation about how much money they put into these other ventures," BBC Partners investment analyst Colin Gillis told Bloomberg. "That will come to an end. This also gives them the structure to add in another business line if they were to acquire something. The mechanism is in place."

By the way, Page and Brin are launching their new adventure with a sense of humor. A quick trip to Alphabet's new website, abc.xyz includes a reference to "drone delivery effort" which, when clicked, takes you to Hooli – the fictional Internet company featured in the hit HBO series "Silicon Valley."

See also: 

Google Glass startup targets doctor-patient communications

Google testing telehealth chats with doctors 

Google working on glucose-sensing contact lens

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