This is a guest post from John Paterson, a student in our upcoming October cohort.
If you look back and map out the history of large technology companies over the past 100 years, there is one shared theme – for the most part, they all come and go.
Bucking the trend is one tech firm you might recognize. Throughout its 100-year history, IBM has bet on the introduction of new technology, from time clocks, butcher scales and coffee grinders to punch-card machines and typewriters to tape storage, mainframes and personal computers to acquiring the consulting arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and, now, to smart social media.
IBM recently celebrated its 100th birthday in 2011 – the first of its kind in the computer technology field to do so.
Why do I mention IBM in a blog about Google? Because before I start talking about this new line of business Google is starting, I want to send a message to those who feel the need to discredit any seemingly improbably new venture Google gets involved in. Google is doing exactly what they should be doing if they wish to remain relevant in an ever changing world. Get comfortable, even for a few years, and tech firms end up in a corner by themselves with no friends. If Google keeps it up, they could be the next 100-year-old tech firm.
Google not only adapts, they take the IBM ‘adapt-or-die’ model and inject it with steroids. How do you go from search engine to mobile devices to wearable computers to self-driving cars to anti-aging?
That would be crazy – if it wasn’t Google.
This new business line, which Google has named Calico (California life company), is far from actually producing results, but it is an exciting new venture nonetheless. The new science project aims to tackle issues in health and well-being – in particular the challenge of aging. In an interview with Time Magazine, Larry Page outlined why Google is starting the venture he calls a ‘moonshot’, “In some industries, it takes 10 or 20 years to go from an idea to something being real. Health care is certainly one of those areas. We should shoot for the things that are really, really important, so 10 or 20 years from now we have those things done.”
But what does Google know about health care and anti-aging? Not much. Which is why they are sticking to what they are good at. The new project will leverage Google’s massive cloud and data centres in order to gain insight into the origins of disease and aging.
Even if its impact is far from being felt, if it is ever felt at all, I like where Google’s head is at (or at least one of its many heads). At the very least, Google can entice others to direct their efforts to this space. Greg Fernstein of TechCrunch argues that there are now more opportunities than ever before for both researchers and entrepreneurs to team up to make technological breakthroughs in healthcare, and, in turn, making those breakthroughs more accessible to the public. I think Google’s efforts are a step in the right direction.
At the end of the day, if Google doesn’t start rolling the ball, who will?