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It has been said that when Alexander the Great looked over the breadth of his vast domain, he wept, because he believed he had no more worlds to conquer.
There appear to be no tears streaming from Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Mountain View headquarters as it reflects on its brief but dramatic 10-year run. In fact, Google seems pretty ambitious for its age, looking to grow beyond "simply" organizing the Internet, and into bringing order to the entire natural world, whether land, air, or sea.
Journey to the center of the Earth
In "Google Swoops on the Smart Grid," our own Toby Shute explored the search giant's travail into bringing intelligence to energy distribution. Known more for democratizing -- or at least monetizing -- online content, Google now wants to bring that same empowerment to everyone from small farmers to everyday homeowners. More people will be able to produce their own energy, and either use it themselves or sell it back to utility companies.
A more efficient grid may be just what the doctor ordered, as car companies such as Toyota and General Motors begin rolling out plug-in vehicles as early as 2010.
Not satisfied to just organize the grid, Google's geothermal rumblings take their energy ambitions underground. And while this endeavor requires a lot of effort and quite a bit more scientific research, Google's investments in the industry are relatively modest. The upside potential is ginormous, since geothermal energy is abundantly available both in the United States and around the world.
Into the wild Goo yonder
Heeding Casey Kasem's signature call to "keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars," Google has hooked up with HSBC (NYSE: HBC ) and Liberty Global (Nasdaq: LBTYA ) to construct a 16-satellite network that hopes to leap the global chasm of the digital divide. This joint effort aims to deliver affordable Internet access to the roughly 3 billion people who live in the global region spanning from Spain to South Africa.
Titled the O3b network, after the "other 3 billion" it targets, this partnership hopes to reduce the cost of bandwidth by as much as 95%, and it's expected to cost a total of $650 million through the expected 2010 launch.
Whether through this initiative, net neutrality, or bidding for spectrum, Google is clearly committed to keeping access to Internet affordable, open, and ever-expanding. With major cable providers such as Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC ) inching toward some sort of metered Internet use, Google is concerned that these increasing tolls could impede its delivery of search results, not to mention its growing inventory of user-generated content.
The Goo's cruise
Never afraid to float a new idea, Google has recently filed a patent application for creating water-based data centers. With the data centers at sea, Google is talking about stacking "crane-removable" data center modules on ships. Upon further review, this seemingly oddball initiative actually isn't so farfetched.
First, Google has always shown great efficiency in fulfilling its server needs, showing both the willingness and the capacity to design, create, and build its own data infrastructure. These seabase servers would put the data closer to end users, without the massive real estate costs. In addition, Google would harness energy from the natural motion of the water crashing against the side of the barges to power these sea servers.
Secondly, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) as well as most of the major server makers, including Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , Sun Microsystems, IBM, and Dell, have recently created their own data centers in movable shipping containers.
Finally, Google submits that floating data centers could provide aid during crises and relief efforts, since these events often occur near rivers and oceans. Google Navy to the rescue!
Within Google's grasp
While many of these projects are years away, and some may never come to fruition, the sheer audacity of its dreams illuminates the King of Search's ambitious soul. While Google may appear unfocused, keep in mind that with a market capitalization of more than $110 billion, the company must swing at some pretty big pitches if it wants to move the revenue needle.
Armed with an ocean of cash, pools of talent, and a penchant for rocking the boat, Google is one global leader with no shortage of worlds yet to conquer.
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