As of Jun 30th, 2013, Google had over $54 billion in cash and short term investments. With that kind of moolah, there is very little you can’t do and, unlike Apple that likes to horde its cash, Google likes to put that money to good use, investing in moonshot projects.
So what is Project Loon?
Project Loon is the latest extreme project to come out of Google X, Google’s secret facility for futuristic (sci-fi-like) development. Loon is Google’s attempt to bring internet access to everyone on the planet via a series of special balloons that will create a wireless network from up in the stratosphere.
Other notable Google X projects: self-driving cars and Google Glass,
Google makes money from people using the internet, so it makes sense that they would try to bring more people online. Nonetheless, there are few companies out there that are willing to spend as much money as Google on these “extreme” projects. Loon even gets its name from the fact that the idea was initially seen as “loony”.
The idea behind Loon is very simple: many people around the world lack internet access because they live in remote areas where it is difficult to run traditional networks. Loon aims to solve this issue by floating high in the stratosphere and providing 3G-like internet speeds over a wide area from far above.
The best part of projects like this is that even if they fail, they push the envelope and drive radical change. Google’s self-driving cars, for example, have stimulated competition from a number of companies including Mercedes-Benz, GM, Toyota and Nissan, among many others. They took an idea that seemed downright loony, and turned it into a major innovation that has the auto industry struggling to keep up.
Apple may have redefined the mobile phone space with the iPhone, but Google is silently revolutionizing several industries with innovation previously thought of as sci-fi. This, while simultaneously dominating search and becoming the front-runner in the mobile OS space. What can’t Google do?