For the last few years, I’ve been proposing that the way to conceptualize Google is as two separate entities: Google A and Google B.
Roughly speaking Google A was the R&D1 organization and Google B was SG&A2. You can find the operating expenses of running each of these organizations in the company’s income statement. In the last quarter R&D was about $2.8 billion and SG&A was about $3.5 billion3. The two entities are further distinguished as follows:
- Google A was led by Eric Schmidt and Larry Page and Google B was led by persons unknown, but mostly represented by the “Chief Business Officer” Omid Kordestani.
- Google A spends money. Google B collects money.
- Google B sends a check to Google A while Google A sends data to Google B (which then sells it on to advertisers and collects money).
- Google A communicates frequently with optimism and enthusiasm about the future. Google B remains quiet.
- Google A solves problems of humanity, Google B solves problems for advertisers.
- Google A has users, Google B has customers (to whom it sells users.)
In summary, Google A is altruistic, Google B is pragmatic. Google A engages in research, Google B engages in commerce. Google A operates in a structure similar to a Bell Labs for the good of humanity4, Google B operates in a structure similar to AT&T and collects monopoly rents but without any government oversight.
This was an effective construct for analysis which explained to me much of how Google operated and how it made decisions. So what do we make of Google’s new Alphabet? Is this a dissolution of the Google B/Google A dichotomy?
My initial answer is no. We don’t have a change in this core structure. What we have instead is a split of Google A into Google A and Google A+.
A+ is the crème de la crème of the altruistic Google A. It’s the stuff that really does not make money. It’s the laboratory of Bell laboratories. It’s the moonshot manufacturer. It’s the incubator where hobbies are hatched. It’s the funder of ventures.
After A+ is carved out, Google A and Google B remain exactly as they were, now under a new CEO. The previous CEO no longer has any day-to-day input in the running of Google A and is no longer soiled by association with Google B.
Alphabet is therefore the “holding company” of Google A+, Google A and Google B. I can only suppose that the separation of A+ from A (and the previous A from B) allows the founders to distance themselves even further from the purchase decisions which, through pricing signals, determine where value lies and how resources should be allocated. That must be a great relief.