In this clip from Industry Focus: Tech, analyst Dylan Lewis and contributor Daniel Sparks explain where Waymo sits in Alphabet's corporate structure and what that means for the fledgling business, how Alphabet has been working toward self-driving car tech so far, and why the company probably won't be releasing detailed breakdowns of Waymo's quarterly performance any time soon.
A full transcript follows the video.
This podcast was recorded on Dec. 16, 2016.
Dylan Lewis: Alphabet's self-driving car project doesn't seem to be just a project anymore. It seems like they're emphasizing this within the Alphabet holding structure.
Daniel Sparks: Yeah, we saw that blog post, Waymo is what they're calling it. It'll be interesting to see where they're taking this, for sure.
Lewis: In that blog post, they said "Waymo stands for a new way forward in mobility. We're a self-driving technology company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around." The tl;dr here, the very simple explanation of what's going on is, they are taking the self-driving car project under Google X and turning it into an identifiable business under Alphabet. This is awesome, I think, if you're an Alphabet shareholder, because it shows that they're going to put a little bit more emphasis on moving things along and not having these fun projects be just that, that there's going to be a commercialization element to it, and a path to that. But to me, more than anything else, this highlights the benefits of the Alphabet holding company structure, and how under CFO Ruth Porat, they've decided to take a more Wall Street-friendly look at some of the things that are going on there at Google.
Sparks: Yeah, it definitely highlights the Alphabet structure that they have set up, and the benefits of it. Investors should realize that this isn't just some new project that they're doing. This is the graduation of the self-driving car project to an actual company. This is really one of the first instances where we've seen this under the Alphabet structure, where we can see, where they take this from their Google X area, which is more just moonshots in development, is kind of how they're making it look, and we're really seeing that with this particular instance, and then graduating over to an actual company and, like you said, putting some pressure on it so they can start turning it into a business.
Lewis: Yeah, and this is, like you said, not something that happened overnight. The self-driving car project has been in the works, I believe, for over eight years at this point. My read on this -- and you can correct me if I'm wrong here, Daniel -- is, we're not really going to be seeing actual financials on Waymo broken out when Alphabet gives its quarterly numbers, at least not anytime soon. It seems like they will probably continue to be lumped into other bets reporting for the foreseeable future.
Sparks: Yeah, I definitely think they're going to keep it in other bets, because with Google's revenue at the $22.2 billion and the other bets revenue at about $200 million, virtually all of the company's profits coming from the core Google segments, and nearly a $1 billion loss coming from other bets -- I don't think Alphabet is ready, just because Waymo is turning into a company, to start segmenting out this information on its own. Not only would it probably draw attention to simply a losing segment, since they haven't really monetized this service yet, and like we said, that's kind of the purpose of it. And, also, it could potentially give competitors an edge that they don't really need to let competitors have, by looking into their business. This is very small to their business, they don't have to report it to investors. It's not material at all, so they might as well keep it under wraps as long as they can.
Lewis: Yeah. So, while we won't have a ton of financial insights, it seems, what I think this does open the door to is some questions and maybe a little bit more pointed commentary from management in some of those quarterly calls and maybe some of those press releases on specifically what's going on with the self-driving car project. Again, probably not something we're going to get a ton of insight into immediately, but something that in the coming quarters and years, we should definitely expect to hear more from.