Does Google need to rein in its ambition? - SeattlePi.com - From the article:
Google's broad ambition -- particularly its sponsorship of the $30 million X Prize to promote exploration of the moon, and Google Sky, an online product for gazing at the stars-- has become a punch line for its rivals. While Google focuses on space, the barb goes, they are focusing on improving their search engines.
Hmmm. I hadn't heard of these rivals. When they're ready to reveal their search engines to the public, I'd like to try them.
(Seriously, I did a little search engine comparison project in an Information Retrieval class long before Google existed, so it would be fun to do another comparison like that).
Back to things like the GLXP ... no Google investor should be surprised Google gets involved with areas like space and energy. As the article mentions, they made this obvious right from the beginning at their IPO (as I learned in another pre-"Space Prizes blog" class for a paper I did on Google Earth). Every company needs to get involved with philanthropy in some way. This is needed for employee moral, finding the best new employees, and public relations. Every company also needs to do advertising. Instead of annoying TV ads, Google chooses to do it with things like the GLXP. This is part of their brand. There are plenty of other companies to invest in if you don't think that's a good approach.
Not only that, but some of these efforts are probably going to pay off in an operational (rather than advertising or public relations) sense for Google. I was actually surprised the GLXP prize wasn't for something like a lunar mapping effort that could be loaded into Google Earth. There are lots of ways Google can benefit from this type of effort. Of course, as the article mentions, energy really is a big cost for their data centers, so they've got to tackle energy somehow.