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What excites CEO Larry Page about Alphabet? Wi-Fi beaming balloons

The Google co-founder talks about connecting remote populations to the Internet and picking the name "Alphabet" for Google's new parent company.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

Alphabet CEO Larry Page said he read three naming books while trying to come up with his company's new moniker.

Stuart Isett/Fortune Global Forum

SAN FRANCISCO -- Alphabet, formerly Google, is a Wonka factory of tech projects.

There are driverless cars, contact lenses with glucose readers, and nanoparticles for cancer detection.

So which one of his company's projects excites CEO Larry Page most?

When asked once, he demurs.

But when pressed, he mentions the power of communications tools, specifically Project Loon. That's the company's initiative aimed at connecting remote populations to the Internet via high-altitude balloons that beam down a Wi-Fi signal.

"Think about how having your cell phone work anywhere in the world could change your life," Larry Page, Google co-founder and chief executive of Alphabet, said Monday at the Fortune Global Forum here. The chat was his first public interview since Google restructured as a unit under the holding company last month.

Last week, Alphabet said it would be testing the balloons in Indonesia. The project, which began pilot tests in 2013, has so far had test runs in New Zealand, Brazil and California's Central Valley.

For Page, the hope is that the Alphabet restructuring will make it easier for his company to dream up and deliver new products and services.

In the last several years, Google has been increasingly ambitious about expanding its scope of products beyond its juggernaut search engine. Its search and advertising business is still the most dominant in the world. But as the Internet evolves, Page has been looking to where future revenue streams will come from. The company has made big bets on everything from wearable devices to high-speed Internet.

The reorganization aims to make it faster and less complicated for the company to develop those new products. Under the new structure, the company's mainstay products, like search, Gmail and YouTube video service remain under the Google moniker. More outlandish projects like smart contacts and Wi-Fi beaming balloons are carried out by separate units within Alphabet.

On Monday, Page gave some insight into some of the decisions behind the reorganization. He said he read three books on naming while trying to come up with the new name. In the end, though, he says it was Google co-founder Sergey Brin who came up with it.

"It's only fair because I chose 'Google,' and he chose 'Alphabet,'" he said.

Part of the goal was to make the company more enticing to entrepreneurs, Page said, and allow them to do big things.

"My job is to create that scale we haven't quite seen from other companies," he said.