Google Cloud is going to power a brand new stadium in California’s Silicon Valley, and it’s backing the $2.3 billion development with the biggest cash outlay of any stadium group. What’s behind the deal?
Less than a month ago, Google announced that it would stop selling Microsoft Office and, in its place, establish a new partnership with a smaller but growing office-productivity company called Slack. Google’s AI prowess promised far more powerful word processors than Microsoft or Slack, and Google claimed the best word processor AI ever. But how did all this translate into a bid to be the exclusive infrastructure provider for a football stadium?
The answer was that Google understands that the nation’s most tech-savvy city is at the forefront of another high-profile market trend. A booming sports and entertainment industry has now become one of the largest sources of internet advertising revenue, behind only advertising on desktop internet pages and social media. And about a third of that revenue now comes from mobile advertising — with much of it coming from mobile games.
That rapid growth is vital to the success of Google’s cloud. Because fewer Americans have broadband access, the cloud is the best route to home internet for those who can’t afford it. And the cloud is also the best way to get onto the internet for people who live in otherwise offline cities like Silicon Valley, where every inch is still home to one or more tech start-ups.
The combination of an exploding sports industry and the growth of mobile video—all digital—is going to provide a major boost to both cloud and data. The end of connection and search is coming, one way or another, and that will be a major opportunity for all kinds of tech companies.
Google doesn’t want to wait around for that to happen.
Here’s why: In the decade or two that it will take for the rise of mobile data to turn into something resembling old-fashioned wired internet access, the landscape is going to change dramatically. New kids are going to be entering the field all the time, many of them from places where web access is fast and cheap. Those kids will have different operating systems, browsers, instant messaging and other key methods of communication, and they’ll be able to build apps that take advantage of all the mobile data available.
Think of all those new smartphone apps. If they are all based on web-based browser access — and they usually are — Google and Facebook are in serious trouble. Neither company is going to control the video, games, voice calls and other standards that kids and adults will be talking and texting about this fall.
So Google got into football stadiums. What happens next is anybody’s guess. Might YouTube hosts the games? How about some kind of live streaming? Will Aereo’s IPO happen?
Google is in the online business, and it knows this. Sure, there will be a place for Amazon and Microsoft. But for a cloud provider, the most likely time to have a dominant position in this market is when a new frontier—computers, mobile devices, video and, yes, data —has just started to take off. And that’s the real challenge Google faces, and one in which the New York Jets are perfectly suited.