Google’s Next Great Thing

Google Express promises same-day delivery of goods from a variety of San Francisco retailers.

Roberto Baldwin makes the very San Francisco comparison to Kozmo, the famously failing ‘90s home-delivery startup, while John Gruber chastises Google for an evident lack of focus.

But what if this is the embodiment of Google finding its focus?

Steve Jobs said of Apple, before returning to the company in 1996, that he would “milk the Macintosh for all it’s worth — and get busy on the next great thing.” It’s reasonable to argue in retrospect that this is exactly what he did.

Suppose Google recognizes that they can’t play king of online advertising forever, that it must hunker down and focus on its own “next great thing?” What technology does Google own that sets it farthest apart from potential competitors? Driverless vehicles.

Google has allegedly been testing its delivery service with employees and their friends since at least October, 2012. If this fleet is not driverless yet, I’m sure it’s slated to become so.

I’m not sure it matters too much if Google succeeds, at least in the conventional sense of toppling rivals such as Amazon in the home delivery market. I imagine they see this as a no-lose gamble. If they happen to strike a chord of convenience, price, and quality in retail delivery, they may just give Amazon a run for their money. If they don’t, they will still have pushed their driverless cars through another phase of real-world testing. Amazon can keep its massive, profitless customer base, and Google can keep its next great thing.