Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella visited the Fortune Brainstorm tech conference Monday. And as Mashable’s Chris Taylor points out, Nadella was animated and idealistic but “short on specifics.”
When asked about Microsoft wearables, for instance, Nadella replied with three short words, and nothing more: “We have ambitions,” he said.
Still, Microsoft’s former cloud guru offered an interesting answer when asked if his company could learn a thing or two from Google and its experimental X Labs that build the company’s “moonshot” projects like Glass and the self-driving car.
From Fortune’s Dan Primack:
Nadella’s comment may come across as subtle gamesmanship, but he’s also right. So far, Google’s Sergey Brin has done an excellent job drumming up hype for his company’s semi-secret lab since 2010, but all of its current projects are in their infancy stages. In other words, nothing from Google X is ready for the public just yet.
There are seven Google X projects we currently know about: Google Glass, the self-driving car project, the smart contact lens project for monitoring glucose, the balloon experiment aiming to provide internet access, the artificial neural network hoping to give computers “machine vision,” the wind energy company Makani Power, and the “web of things,” which is Google’s way of “connecting objects to the internet.”
There’s also Calico, Google’s life extension project to help us cheat death, and Google’s plan to build robots for businesses, but both of those particular projects aren’t considered part of the X Labs. They are, however, still considered moonshots.
Google has rejected plenty of other ideas, including a hoverboard, a space elevator, teleportation, and a user-safe jetpack. But all of Google’s moonshots, as wild as they sound, are still a big part of Google’s image. For example, Google Glass is one of the few Google X projects to actually leave the labs. It’s also one of Google’s most public products in general. But so far the head-mounted wearable has yet to make the general public feel comfortable or live up to the company’s own expectations. Its own creator said Google Glass “has a long way to go.” So in many ways, Nadella’s comments about Google’s ability to market its moonshots, but not necessarily deliver them, ring true.
If Google wants to prove Nadella wrong, one or more of its moonshot projects will need to leave the labs at some point. Perhaps Andy Rubin can help.