3 years and a half-billion dollars later, changes are coming
Google/Alphabet is loaded. They have a lot of cash, and even more ambition. But what is it they are trying to achieve? When you ponder the Goog and their agenda, the first things you realize is how complicated and interwoven the revenue mechanisms are. Google is a data and services company. They capture data, catalog data, rack and stack data, sell advertising based on that data and end up surrounded by enormous piles of money. They use this money to create, maintain and improve the platforms that are deployed for user engagement. Platforms like Maps, Gmail, Android and the now deprecated Earth. These platforms allow Google to acquire better and more granular data capture methods and again, use that improved data acquisition to make more money.
But surely, they must be more complicated than this. Revenue is simply a means. But means to do…what exactly? Machine Learning? A.I.? These are just research vehicles by which they burn dollars for more accurate data trajectory prediction, which brings us back to data based revenue creation. What about the humanity aspect of their agenda? Internet access for everyone? That is a mechanism for on-line behavioral data collection. Virtual Reality? Behavioral data collection. GoogleX and Google Ventures are indicators for what the direction for their vision, but are they simply interested in being the best data collectors in the universe? Haven’t they already achieved this? What do you do when you are the data collection master of the universe?
You get someone else to do it for you…for free.
Data collection is an expensive operation. Google has found ways – very creative ways – to keep the data stream rolling in. Building an email platform that costs millions every month to maintain, machine read the contents, and re-sell the end result back to the user they collected the data from. Building a navigation platform with so much eye-candy, that people use it for fun. Some users are so enamored with Maps, that they are even willing to build the improvements for Google, and do it for free. They will even police and curate the communities themselves to ensure the level of quality is maintained, and even take pride in being a part of it.
Which brings me to the point of this article.
3 years ago, Google acquired a company called SkyBox, a satellite imaging company. One would presume that they did this to enhance the Maps product with higher resolution maps tiles. But this function of the acquisition was only a portion of the initiative. SkyBox was supposed to help Google, (or Alphabet) launch a grip of small satellites, in order to blanket the earth with space-based internet routers and cameras…to put it in layman terms. They also acquired a sake in SpaceX, Elon Musks space project that launches satellites into space.
Today, Bloomberg broke a story, that rumor has it Alphabet will be selling SkyBox to their competitor for $150 million and a stake in Planet, another satellite imaging operation. Presumably, this will allow Google to focus on something other than an organic space-based imaging effort.
What kind of terrestrial data layer is Google interested in that would provide a level of interest and engagement that would still maintain visual quality and an ROI reduction in cost and further widens the gap between competing products like Maps for iOS?
Jason Yeaman (imthemobileguru)’s Street View contributions:
The competition should take heed.
Also published on Medium.