SAN FRANCISCO -- With mountains of cash and some of the world's smartest engineers, Google Inc. has always set aside research and development dollars for futuristic ventures that appear to have little in common with its core business of Internet search.
But lately, it's been backing some eye-popping projects. In recent weeks, the company has revealed it's working on self-driving cars and a multibillion-dollar windmill farm -- in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Crazy? Like a fox, analysts say. The projects, no matter how far afield from the company's ambitious mission of organizing the world's information, may turn out to be more calculated -- and prosperous -- than they initially appear.
"Some of these things will turn out to be wildly successful and others will just fade away," said Jay Wong, portfolio manager with Los Angeles investment firm Payden & Rygel, which owns Google shares. "It's part of their creative culture and what makes them so successful."
Or as Silicon Valley author John Battelle put it: "We should be pleased we have a company that is throwing spaghetti at the wall."
Google can afford to gamble because it rules the Internet's most lucrative market: the text ads that run alongside search results, a giant business that is booming even as the rest of the economy lags. It has allowed Google to amass more than $33 billion in cash and third-quarter net income of $2.17 billion.