I’m sure by now you’ve all heard or read about the big news at Google: The creation of Alphabet as a holding company, of which Google is now a subsidiary; along with new spin-out companies that were “wacky projects” under the old business model. (David Goldman, CNNMoney’s words, not mine).
You may have even read this Google blog post by Larry Page, CEO Alphabet and Google Co-founder, explaining the reasons for this reorganization. I heard the news first on NPR on the way to work on Monday, and have been tossing it around in my mind ever since.
While much of the coverage of Alphabet has focused on what a genius business strategy this is or alternatively how the URL, Alphabet.com, is already taken, I’m more interested in learning what this could mean for the future of those wacky projects, and by association, the impact it could have semiconductor industry and, of course, the topic of the year, the Internet of Things.
A couple of years ago, Simon McElrea (then president, Invensas, now CEO, Semblant) predicted that the organizations that would take 2.5D and 3D IC to commercialization may not be the traditional semiconductor players, (foundries, OSATS, IDMs, etc.) but rather the end-product owners who are weary of waiting for solutions to their high-performance, low-power needs and will take matters into their own hands; companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon.
Google’s reorganization supports this theory as, according to an article in The Verge, this move was made to placate investors, while still offering Page and Sergey Brin, Alphabet President and Google Co-founder, the opportunity to pursue their pet R&D projects intended to “make the world a better place.” Some you may be familiar with: Google X (Google Glass), Life Sciences (contact lenses that measure glucose levels for diabetes testing and the self-driving car), and Nest (smart devices for the home). Some you may not be (I wasn’t!): Calico Labs, which has been dubbed the “anti-aging” project, or Sidewalk Labs, focused on urban planning projects.
One project under Google X that particularly caught my attention because I’ve been wondering how the IoT will work since two thirds of the world’s population in rural and remote locations don’t have Internet access. The Loon Project is on the case, using weather balloons outfitted with LTE technology that are placed in the earth’s stratosphere. The balloons use software algorithms to direct them where they need to go to form one large communication network. So far, tests have been conducted successfully in New Zealand, California’s Central Valley, and Northern Brazil.
Many of these projects parallel work imec is doing with it’s Smart Living initiative, as described by Luc van den hove during his ITF USA keynote talk, or what Intel is doing with projects like London Living Labs, as described by Doug Davis in his SEMICON West keynote. Clearly this will impact semiconductor manufacturing in significant ways, as our industry provides the foundation for these technologies. So if the establishment of Alphabet ultimately leads to the expansion of these types of projects, than how can it be a bad thing for the semiconductor industry? ~ F.v.T.