So, I missed Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG ) I/O developer conference this year. What was I thinking?
If you’ve yet to see what went down yesterday, skydivers wearing prototype Google Glass spectacles live-streamed a jump into downtown San Francisco, followed by a grand entrance into the Moscone Center, where the conference was taking place.
"Magical," was how social business chief Vic Gundotra described the stunt, stealing a page from the late Steve Jobs. But he’s right. In making Glass a centerpiece of yesterday’s announcements, the search star once more reminded investors what makes the company great.
In a word: innovation. Crazy, expensive, breakthrough innovation.
Once more, a commitment from the top
Co-founder Sergey Brin took the stage to talk about Glass, admittedly a skunkworks project born inside of the secretive Google X lab. Yet, Brin’s enthusiasm matters. Even if we don’t yet know when the spectacles will be made available to everyday users -- or anything else other than a name and a list of features -- we know that Google still values Big Ideas.
How does the device work? "Google Glass Explorer Edition" has two buttons. One for controlling Internet features, such as starting a Google+ Hangout, reading email, sending a text, and so on. Another is for shooting pictures or video. In every case, the specs are meant to enhance the everyday experience by bringing the Internet with you.
We do this already, I realize. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) selling more than 35 million iPhones per quarter means that more of us are walking, heads-down, favoring the Internet over the world around us. Nor is Google innocent; Samsung’s Android handsets are now the world’s top-selling smartphones.
Glass and its heads-up, unobtrusive display feel like an attempt to make amends. Which, frankly, is awesome. Every step that Google takes to make the Internet part of our everyday experience is an opportunity to improve its database, apps, and, ultimately, advertising efforts.
But, as my Foolish colleague Alex Planes explained last month, Project Glass is also bigger than Google.
“Google CEO Larry Page felt the need to reassure skittish investors last year that the company's skunkworks behind the device -- Google X to you -- would have a minimal effect on its finances. Why? Investors should be thrilled that such big ideas are on the table at all. The demise of the big idea would be the worst thing to happen to the American high-tech industry, and would seriously dent the long-term resilience of the American economy."
Indeed, Google Glass reminds me of IBM’s (NYSE: IBM ) own reach-for-the-sky research efforts, some of which are so startling, the company rakes in more than $1 billion a year in royalty revenue just to license them. It’s nice to see the Big G walking in Big Blue’s footsteps again.
Welcome back, Google. I’ve missed you.
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