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4 Big Alphabet Projects That Make No Money (Yet)

By Billy Duberstein – Aug 15, 2018 at 10:19AM

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Alphabet is a $124 billion business. Know what's even more remarkable? Many of its products don't make any money.

We all know Alphabet (GOOG 1.56%) (GOOGL 1.42%) as the parent of Google, the dominant global search engine. Google's powerful platform has upended the advertising industry and digital advertising -- where Google has the most market share -- overtook television ad spending for the first time in 2017.

But even with skyrocketing revenues and a $100 billion-plus cash horde, Alphabet isn't resting on its laurels. The company has invested heavily in a portfolio of exciting artificial intelligence products, many of which don't make any revenue yet. Here are just a few Google innovations that could be the next big things, but aren't yet reflected in the company's financials.

Embedded Google Assistant

While Google is a leader in most of its product lines, one place where it places second is the voice-enabled virtual assistant market, where Amazon's (AMZN 2.23%) Echo claims the top spot. Still, Google is catching up. According to, the Google Home smart speaker, which is powered by Google Assistant, has been rapidly gaining market share on Amazon's Echo (powered by Alexa), achieving 27% market share as of May 2018. That may be due to the fact that Google has recently been outperforming Alexa in controlled accuracy tests. A recent study by Stone Temple Consulting showed Google's Assistant continuing to lead on this metric, though the study also concluded Alexa has been improving its accuracy at a fast rate over the last year.

Of course, Google Assistant and Alexa don't just power speakers; both companies are working to embed these voice-enabled assistants in third-party devices. Here again Google trails Amazon, but is improving. Last quarter,  Google Assistant was compatible with more than 5,000 consumer devices, including doorbells and refrigerators. That's still well behind the 13,000 devices Alexa can control, but Google may be able to close that gap in time, as it has with home speakers.

Google is not monetizing the embedded Assistant for third parties just yet, though. On a recent conference call with analysts, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, "I still would like the experience to evolve a lot more before, you know, we play around with monetization," for both Google Assistant and another big new service, Shopping Actions.

a young man sticks his finger through a hole in an empty wallet.

Google makes no money from some of it coolest products. Image source: Getty Images.

Shopping Actions

Shopping Actions is a new service from Google that aims to leverage its search platform into a seamless e-commerce experience. Partnering with leading retailers, Google hopes to find a shortcut to becoming a real competitor to Amazon's dominant e-commerce platform.

Shopping Actions allows customers to put goods from leading retailers into a universal Google shopping cart, while still benefiting from each retailer's specific loyalty program. Early tests have been successful, though Pichai admitted, "for all of this to really work well and to delight users, I still feel we have some work ahead of us, and that's what we are focused on. So we'll stay focused there, get the experience, and then that will give us new avenues to monetize it."

While Shopping Actions is still in its development phase, the sheer size of the U.S. e-commerce market is roughly $525 billion and growing in the mid-teen percents, so it's not unthinkable that Shopping Actions could be a meaningful contributor to revenue at some point in the future.


Waymo, Alphabet's leading self-driving car platform, was one of Alphabet's "Other Bets," but was spun off into its own company in late 2016. When Google spins off an "Other Bet," that means it's nearly ready for commercialization. Still, roughly one and a half years later, Waymo is still perfecting the platform with its early rider program in Phoenix that's testing out self-driving vehicles with the public. The company is making progress: It's logged over 8 million miles driven on city streets, and recently announced an expanded partnership with Fiat-Chrysler, as well as a new partnership with Jaguar to expand the program in the near term.

While Waymo doesn't make any revenue yet, it is thought to be the leader in autonomous tech, and Morgan Stanley analysts estimate Waymo could eventually be worth between $70 billion and $140 billion.


Finally, Alphabet made another exciting announcement on its recent conference call regarding Loon, an "Other Bet" that uses balloons to deliver wireless internet to underserved areas. Loon expects to garner its first deployment in 2019 with its first-ever partnership with a major telcom, Telkom Kenya. In conjunction with that announcement, Alphabet also said it was graduating Loon from Other Bets, as it did with Waymo in 2016.

Loon began all the way back in 2011, but recent improvements have allowed its balloons to serve 10 times more people than earlier models. In 2015, Loon execs postulated that the company could potentially earn tens of billions in revenue by providing connectivity for just $5 per month. Given the recent announcement, it may not be too long before those dollars start showing up on Alphabet's financials.

Future looks bright

While digital ads will be Alphabet's core business for a long time to come, the money-making Alphabet of 10 years from now could look much more diversified, incorporating e-commerce, global connectivity, and mobility. Given the recent announcements around non-monetized products, there's reason to think that could even be sooner.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Billy Duberstein owns shares of Alphabet (C shares) and Amazon. His clients may own shares of some of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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