Google's Ariel Bardin, head of the Big G's payments business, was speaking at the Transact 2014 payment technology conference this past week. Bardin was detailing Google's efforts in building new and innovative solutions for online and mobile payments. He started talking about Google's Instant Buy -- which lets businesses easily accept Google Wallet payments -- and about the partnerships that Google is forming with companies like Airbnb, Uber, Priceline, and -- a personal favorite -- Dominos. Bardin said for Google, "partnership is key."
He continued, quipping: "Making money, all this kind of stuff... that comes later. Google really wants to drive mobile payments forward, and focus on the customer."
Fellow Fool Patrick Morris, who was sitting next to me, leaned over, eyes wide. "Did you hear that?" I did indeed. "I think," Patrick said, "that's Google in a nutshell." I couldn't agree more.
Apparently, the idea that doing something great, getting it right, and worrying about making money later didn't die out with the Dotcom bust. To be sure, Google is plenty profitable -- to the tune of nearly $13 billion in 2013. But if we look at many of the things that Google is doing, Bardin's approach -- let's get it right, then worry about making lots of money from it later -- seems to run through a lot of it.
Is this good for Google? Most definitely. Just look at the businesses that are successful over the long term. I'd argue that with few exceptions, those businesses are successful because they're providing products and services that wow customers, not because they're great at squeezing extra profit out of a crappy product.
Of course, it's not just good for Google -- it's good for all of us. When there are companies that have this kind of approach, there are problems and unmet needs that are going to get solved. In this specific case, mobile payments haven't yet become the norm. Can Google change that? I wouldn't bet against it.