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Why Google Cloud Needs to Get Less Googley

December 12, 2019, 1:29 PM UTC

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Each of the three biggest online services, or cloud companies–Amazon, Microsoft, and Google–has its own founding story. Amazon Web Services grew out of the digital software programs the retailer built for itself. Microsoft realized its bigger customers would pay for the added security its Azure offering provided. As for Google Cloud, the latecomer, it would offer the best of Google’s internally developed whizbang technology to all takers.

Google’s problem, until now, was that it was neither fish (scrappy like AWS) nor fowl (bullet-proof and sold by a wing-tipped salesforce like Microsoft). Thomas Kurian, the Oracle executive hired to run Google Cloud earlier this year, is out to change that. He’s been busy hiring top sales executives from the likes of Salesforce, SAP, and Microsoft to give Google credibility in a marketplace it didn’t know. And he’s been as active adding functionality to Google’s cloud offering, the better to woo large and small clients.

“We now have all the services an enterprise company should have,” Kurian told me Wednesday. He notes the types of mundane functions like customer service, compliance, legal, and distributor relationships that companies like Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft perfected years ago.

There’s a slim connection between Google’s big-business-y cloud aspirations and its consumer-product roots. The search business was built on the theory that the more people who use the Internet the better. (Google’s “free” mobile-phone software is an example of the approach.) Google Cloud, for its part, aims to be the cloud provider that plays nicely with every other provider—on the theory that its customers have “workloads” on AWS or Azure in addition to Google.

I asked Kurian if he’s becoming more “Googley” or if Google Cloud is bending to the more corporate ways of enterprise technology. Always buttoned up in his Oracle days, Kurian assured me over the phone that he now dresses casually. But he knows the business imperative and to whom he’s selling. “If you read the press and all the things customers say, we’ve transformed Google into more of an enterprise-ready company,” he says.

Amazon’s cloud unit is now its key profit machine. Microsoft’s online software business is its business. Google is a long way from being able to make either claim. But its game of catch up appears to be well underway.


Plans for 2020 are well underway in the tech world. Fortune hosts its annual Brainstorm Tech dinner the evening of Jan. 6 in Las Vegas. It will feature “mobility” experts including Waymo’s John Krafcik, GM’s Pamela Fletcher, Daimler’s Franz Reiner, and L.A. transportation official Seleta Reynolds. We have a few open spots at dinner; email me for an invitation.

Adam Lashinsky

Twitter: @adamlashinsky


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


Cockroach motel. One part of the "lock-in" of social media sites is the difficulty of ever moving posts, photos, or other data to another site. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday said he'd created a small team of engineers and designers to write an "open and decentralized standard" for social media. It may take a while to develop a standard that many sites can agree on.

Building a worse mousetrap. Some low-cost smart-ish watches for kids sold by Amazon included vulnerable software that could allow interactions with unauthorized people, security firm Rapid7 discovered.

Smooth as butter. An autonomous truck successfully drove itself from Tulare, Calif., to Quakertown, Penn in less than three days. Startup said the self-driving hauler (with a human monitor on board) was carrying a load of 40,000 pounds of Land O’Lakes butter.

#Finally. After allowing videos with homophobic criticism of journalist Carlos Maza to stay online, Google's YouTube unit finally changed course on Wednesday. YouTube's new harassment guidelines now prohibit “veiled or implied threats” based on a person's race or sexual orientation.

#Finally, the #Finally Strikes Back. A year after first announcing plans to offer a savings account, free stock trading app Robinhood finally rolled out a savings account. Unlike the initial plan, the new savings account, which pays 1.8% interest, is in partnership with an outside bank.

Return of the #Finally. Owners of BMW cars who are not in Apple's ecosystem finally will be able to connect their Android phones more fully to their vehicles. The German automaker says it's bringing Android Auto to its most recent cars starting in July 2020. What took so long? The “majority of our customers were using iOS mobile devices,” the company says.



You'd have to say that scooter renters Lime, Bird, and their rivals are among the most visible startups in the world, littering their vehicles across the landscape. While Adam reported on the problems with bike sharing in China on Tuesday, here in the States, the scooter companies are looking for more sustainable strategies. Fortune's own Rey Mashayekhi explores how the startups fit into the future transportation plans of big cities and how they are partnering with big real estate developers.

The result is a symbiotic business relationship that’s becoming more common. On one side, landlords and their tenants gain access to an affordable, easy-to-use and—for many—fun way of getting around town; on the other, micromobility startups have a new means to gain exposure and grow their ridership.

“For real estate owners, it helps create better connections to transit and destinations in their communities. For us, it’s an investment to make [Spin] the most useful mobility service in the cities we operate in," says Ted Bronstein, Spin’s vice president of partnerships.


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Apple's new Mac Pro computer has been drawing commentary mostly about its price, which can exceed $52,000 for a spec-ed up model. But Popular Mechanics had other questions, like why are the Pro's huge fans so quiet? They talked to Chris Ligtenberg, Apple's senior director of product design, who delved deep into the details of air flow. Apple's inspiration came from a seemingly low-tech product: the shape of car tires.

Aaron Pressman

On Twitter: @ampressman