We had In The Plex author Steven Levy as a guest on the SAIcast this week – you should listen, and then go buy his book – and I learned a bunch of new stuff about Google:

  • There’s a division at the company called “Google X.” Google hasn’t announced it, but it’s a crack team of engineers working on top secret projects – stuff like the self-driving cars, but that you haven’t heard about.
  • While the rest of us wonder why Google works on silly projects like self-driving cars, Google CEO Larry Page is pulling his hair out over our lack of understanding. He thinks the point of technology is that it can do impossible things, and that’s what  Google should be after.
  • Larry doesn’t want to talk about this stuff with outsiders – on earnings calls, or elswhere – because he believes what you and I don’t need to know, we don’t need to know. So back off.
  • Take away former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and current Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s titles, and it becomes clear that the two of them are doing the exact same job. Schmidt’s job was to be, and Sandberg’s job is to be, an operations genius building a business organisation around young, visionary founders.
  • Google is more terrified of Facebook than you know. They are dying over how much information is locked inside Facebook’s walls.
  • Their plan to beat Facebook – or survive it – is not to build a rival and dominate social network, but to be just “social” enough that Facebook is forced to allow Google to crawl all its data.
  • Google desperately wants to buy Twitter. The only thing that’s held it back so far are regulatory concerns, and the fact that Twitter’s ex-Google founders haven’t wanted to return to the Plex.
  • Display ads are now a multi-billion dollar business and YouTube is breaking even. But yeah, search is still the only business of theirs that matters.
  • Actually, Android is getting close, but you have to remember: Google doesn’t actually make any money selling Android to mobile carriers. It gives Android away free.
  • Also, Google desperately wants to see Chrome work. Chrome, nothing but a browser, is a more Google-y vision for how the world should work than fat-client-software-based Android is. 
  • Google doesn’t mind it when the stock price goes down for a while. That makes it easier to hire people on the promise of upside.

These bullets give you a sense of how well the conversation went, but really you should listen to the whole thing (And then go by Levy’s book!):

Or download this episode (right click and save)

Intro music – Summer by Mind The Gap