Google surprised everyone Monday with fundamental changes to its organizational DNA, putting a new holding company, Alphabet, above a newly fashioned Google Inc. and other subsidiaries for its Google X “moonshots” lab and ventures arm. Days later, the world is still trying to make sense of it.
As similarly dubbed businesses the world over consult their attorneys, or tighten their grips on company Website addresses, Silicon Valley got busy swinging the spotlight onto Sundar Pichai, the Google product chief turned Google Inc. CEO. The thoughtful, even demure executive may not be well-known to mainstream audiences—certainly not to the level of Steve Jobs or other business executive superstars—but he’s apparently poised to become technology’s next high-profile rock god.
The dial on Alphabet mania seems to be turned up to “high.” There are, however, realities on the ground to consider. Developers—a crucial constituency to Google, who both serve to popularize its platforms and engage in often-profitable business with it—may wonder how the changes affect them.
After all, they are the contributors who build on their technologies, fill its app stores, and champion its open-source projects.
ReadWrite asked if the newly formed Alphabet or its newly fashioned Google Inc. subsidiary will change any developer processes or procedures following the reorganization. We also asked if developers should brace themselves for any new approaches to their development tools.
A Google spokesperson offered a fast reassurance that nothing would change for developers—which may be both good news for some and disappointing for others.
What The Different Bowls For This Alphabet Soup Means
A company representative emailed ReadWrite, stating “Google Play/Android developers will see absolutely no changes in their day-to-day relationship with Google.” In other words, business as usual, at least for now.
Apart from topping most Silicon Valley address books, the new holding company merely ladled its divisions into bowls, each of which holds different ingredients of the Alphabet soup.
Google Inc. will govern the technologies most people are familiar with—namely the tech giant’s search engine, Android software, Chrome projects, maps and Web services, including Google+, Hangouts and other consumer-facing efforts. Sending Internet access into the sky via balloons, putting driverless cars on the road and other projects, including those pursued by its venture arm, will come from other subsidiaries under the Alphabet umbrella.
Google X projects have never been very open to outsiders. That won’t change with the new org chart—except that, since the division operates as its own subsidiary now, it will operate even further from the company’s more developer-friendly pursuits.
Put another way, don’t hold your breath for a self-driving car API. It may come one day, but that likely won’t be soon.
In another way, the change could be very liberating, says IDC analyst Tom Mainelli. As he explained to VentureBeat, “Nest and the rest gain more freedom to spend money, acquire other companies, etc. without having to try to explain how such costs are benefiting the core ad business when they clearly were not.”
Nest acts as the heart of Google’s Brillo smart home initiative, and its chief, Tony Faddell, now heads the Google Glass project, which is expected to introduce a second-generation version of the connected eyewear.
Google has always made deep investments in new technologies, research, and developer outreach. If these and other initiatives keep their pursestrings, but rid the sticky restrictions, then what comes next could wind up looking pretty appetizing.