Google has posted a new video showing the progress it has made on Project Loon, a plan to float thousands of balloons into the upper atmosphere to provide internet connectivity for developing nations.
The video shows project lead Mike Cassidy talking about scaling up Project Loon to build the thousands of balloons necessary to cover most of the world. He also highlights how the company plans to launch, track and recover them.
While the project is revolutionay in a meteorological sense and is surely a technical triumph, it should scare the pants off any current or prospective Google investors.
Yesterday Google announced its financial results for the year and for a 7th straight year they missed on earnings. While revenues were up so were costs and at a greater rate.
Google's pursuit of side projects, such as self driving cars and internet-by-balloon schemes show a lack of focus at the company and a penchant for pursuing technically advanced projects with little market potential.
Google Glass, the failed glasses-meet-webcam, are a prime example. Technically remarkable yet ill conceived.
The projects demonstrate a culture of hubris and superiority that are proving ruinous for the company.
Take, for instance, Cassidy's statement in the video:
“One of the key things we will do is partner with a telco in every country"
Yet Google has begun to compete with these telcos but launching Google-fi and Google Fiber. It's unlikely telcos would be keen to partner with the company on yet another product that directly competes with them.
Cassidy also glosses over the suitability of existing mobile technologies for communication in tough to reach places
People walk around at ground level as a considerable amount of effort has gone into designing cellular systems to not waste power by beaming up into the sky which is why Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg dismissed the idea last year, saying that conventional networks are rolling out so fast there is no market for Loon.
While Google may be the smartest guys in the room they have a focus problem. This starts with CEO Larry Page, the distractor-in-chief, and snowballs from there.
Anyone investing in Google should account for these distractions. Projects like Loon will never make it to market and be the game-changers Google wants them to be. While Google dithers with them other competitors will emerge and start taking market share. Between this and their anti-trust issues Google will be dead money for years to come.