September 9, 2005 4:00 AM PDT
Why Google hired Vint Cerf
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such as surveys from Gallup or the Census. These kinds of things can be powerful and monetized," he added.
Google has not announced any plans in the mobile market beyond making its basic services available on wireless devices. But recent moves indicate that execs there may have something big in mind, and Cerf, with his communications protocol background, could play a big role.
The Mountain View, Calif., company has been investing heavily in a communications infrastructure, buying up dark fiber, or fiber-optic cable that's already been laid but is not yet in use. In July, it also invested in Current Communications, a company that provides technology for delivering broadband Net access over power lines.
Google has also quietly partnered with the small San Francisco company Feeva in an effort to test the delivery of advertising over Wi-Fi networks. Google this year also acquired Android, a stealth start-up that was rumored to be working on an operating system for mobile devices. Android's co-founders have expertise in developing wireless hardware.Space-bound search giant?
Google was clear in the prospectus filed prior to its initial public offering that it plans to take the long view when it comes to business development. But it may be taking an unexpectedly extended view into space with the hiring of Cerf, who was deep into the "serious engineering" of communications standards for spacecraft in his role as a visiting scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. He'll keep up that work when he moves to Google.
The NASA work would dovetail with the far-reaching interests of Google's co-founders. Larry Page, for example, recently joined the board of trustees of the X Prize Foundation, which sponsors competitions to create breakthroughs in space and related technologies. And according to one source, Google has already hired several scientists who worked the NASA Ames Research Center, which is near Google's headquarters.
But as ambitious as Google's execs may be, most think they're a long way from hitting the outer-space market, which was Cerf's focus at NASA.
"In the interplanetary exploration of the solar system, most of the communication systems have been tailored very carefully to the sensor platforms on the spacecraft," Cerf said. "What that means is that two different spacecraft may not be able to communicate with each other."
In time, Cerf hopes researchers can develop a protocol and network that will allow various spacecraft to easy communicate.
"So the vision here as time goes on is that we will accrete a kind of interplanetary backbone that will be made up of the resources of all these various spacecraft," he said, "some of them on surface of planets, some on satellites, some in orbit, some simply flying free."
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