The company formerly known as Google is far bigger than most people realise

Jul 17, 2018
Several of the projects and companies overseen by Alphabet, the holding company Google created in 2015, have generated news of late.
 
On Tuesday,  RBC Capital analyst Mark Mahaney issued a bullish report about the future of Waymo, the self-driving car company is due to launch commercial operations in Phoenix, Arizona, before the end of the year. 
 
And on Wednesday, Alphabet's  research and development arm, X, announced that two projects, Loon and Wing, would become independent companies within Alphabet. 
 
This slight surge in news reminded us that it's been nearly three years since Google blew up its entire corporate structure to form a new parent company: Alphabet.
 
The shake-up was intended to help all of its businesses operate more efficiently, a move CEO Larry Page was working on for years as a secret project he called "Javelin."
 
This move also allowed Page to step back from day-to-day operations to "focus on the bigger picture".
 
Now, Alphabet is a massive corporation that encompasses everything from internet-beaming hot air balloons to self-driving cars to Google Cloud. 
 
This seemed like a good time to revisit how Alphabet is structured. 
 
Google officially became Alphabet in October, 2015, with the hope of allowing businesses units to operate independently and move faster. Google co-founder Larry Page is the CEO of the umbrella company, Alphabet.
 
Alphabet is divided into two main units: Google and Other Bets. Other Bets is best known for its "moonshot" R&D unit, X, but it also houses several other companies. Let's start with the smaller companies under Other Bets.
 
Alphabet's Access division includes Google Fibre, which launched in Kansas City in 2012 and expanded to about 9 cities. Fibre offers extremely fast high-speed internet (up to 1G) and some TV. It's billed as an alternative to traditional cable companies. It currently has about 200,000 subscribers.
 
But Access has scaled back its bet on Fibre, halting expansion to new markets and eliminating hundreds of jobs, as it focuses instead on new types of wireless services. Rumours are swirling that Alphabet may try to sell its fibre business.
 
Verily focuses on healthcare and disease prevention research, like smart contact lenses that can monitor a wearer's glucose levels and eating utensils with automatic stabilisation for users with unsteady hands, such as Parkinson's patients.
 
Calico launched in 2013 with an ambitious goal: "cure death." The Alphabet-owned company has invested millions to develop drugs that could help prolong human life by fighting age-related diseases like cancer or Alzheimer's.
 
GV is Alphabet's early-stage venture arm, formerly known as Google Ventures, GV has $2.4 billion (R32 billion) under management and has invested in more than 300 companies, including Uber, Flatiron Health, and Slack.
 
Google Capital — now known as CapitalG — is Alphabet's growth equity investment fund. Its mission is purely financial returns, but unlike GV, Google Capital focuses on later-stage startups. Some of its investments include Airbnb, Glassdoor, and Thumbtack.
 
The "think tank" division within Alphabet was spun off into a company called Jigsaw early in 2016. Led by Jared Cohen, Jigsaw uses technology to tackle geopolitical problems like online censorship, extremism, and harassment.
 
Google DeepMind focuses on artificial intelligence research. Acquired in 2014 for $500 million (R6.7 billion), DeepMind has focused on adding artificial intelligence throughout Google products, including search. The DeepMind AI can also teach itself how to play arcade games and can play board games against humans.
 
Based in London, DeepMind is an artificial intelligence company that Google acquired in 2014 and is now setting up a sizable new team in the US in order to increase collaboration within Google.
 
Waymo, Alphabet's self driving car project, has laboured for nearly a decade to develop fully autonomous vehicles. While it began as a part of Google X, the self-driving car unit spun out into its own business in December 2016.
 
Waymo, which stands for "Way forward in mobility," has the mission of making "it safe and easy for people and things to move around." The cars have now driven 3.2million kilometres, but have not yet become available for commercial use.
 
Project Loon, a former X "moonshot" that is now is an independent business, has a mission to bring web access to two-thirds of the world's population using internet-beaming hot air balloons.
 
Project Wing is also a former project inside X. The commercial drone delivery service made headlines in September 2016 when it flew Chipotle burritos to Virginia Tech students. Wing has had trouble though, such as accusations of harsh working conditions, and the project's leader Dave Vos, left the company in October 2016.
 
Titan Aerospace was acquired by Google in 2014 and renamed Project Titan as part of X. Project Titan was charged with building solar-powered drones built to fly nonstop for years and beam internet around the world. But the project was shuttered altogether in late 2016 with the remnants of it lumped in with Project Wing.
 
Now Google itself.
All of Alphabet's "traditional" products — like Chrome, the new Pixel phone, Google Home, and Google Play — are still housed under Google, which is helmed by CEO Sundar Pichai.
 
Nest Labs built smart thermostats and other home devices, like outdoor security cameras. The company was acquired by what is now Alphabet in 2014, and in June 2016, CEO Tony Fadell stepped down but remains within Alphabet. He was replaced by Marwan Fawaz. In February it was announced Nest would be folded back into Google's hardware unit.
 
Google's hardware division was formed in 2016 when Google hired former Motorola president Rick Osterloh. Osterloh was put in charge of Pixel phones, Google Home, Chromebooks, and revamping Google Glass. Osterloh reports directly to Sundar Pichai.
 
ATAP, which stands for Advanced Technology and Projects, is a secretive Google division that works on projects like Jacquard, which makes smart fabric; Soli, which uses radar for touchless gesture control; and Spotlight Stories, which creates short VR films. ATAP now falls under Osterloh's hardware division.
 
Diane Greene — who Google hired in 2015 — runs Google's cloud businesses, which includes G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work), Google Cloud Platform, and more.
 
Google Cloud is Google's cloud computing platform that competes with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. It reports to Diane Greene and is a major sources of investment for Google right now. Google execs have said that it could one day be bigger than Google's ad search business.
 
G Suite includes Hangouts Meet, Calendar, Mail, Plus, Cloud Search, and Drive. According to Google, millions of businesses are now using the service.
 
YouTube was acquired in 2006 and remains a subsidiary of Google. The video hosting site, run by Susan Wojcicki, has emerged as the world's No. 1 video-sharing site and the No. 2 most visited site on the web. Analysts estimate that YouTube generates enormous revenue but Alphabet has yet to reveal the service's financial performance.
 
Google's core product, web search, remains under the Google umbrella. There are more than 2.3 million Google searches per minute, which adds up to more than 100 billion Google searches per month.
 
Google Maps is part of Google's core business and now has more than 1 billion monthly users.
 
Google AdSense lets publishers earn money from online content, placing ads on publishers' webpages. Advertising drives the majority of revenue for Google.
 
And finally, there's Android: Google's mobile operating system. The company frequently rolls out new versions, all named after different desserts. The current version, 7.0, is named Nougat, but previous iterations have been named KitKat, Lollipop, and Marshmallow.
 
Apps, movies, music, and books for Android devices can be downloaded from Google's Play Store.
 
Credit: The Business Insider

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