Both Google and Apple are in the enviable position of being able to use a portion of the massive profits generated by their core businesses to fund special projects.
While Apple's secretive corporate culture keeps it tight-lipped about some of its advanced research projects, Google is quite a bit more open about theirs. The company periodically gives the public a little peek (like it did in a recent big story in BusinessWeek) about projects being developed at its advanced research lab. As a result, rarely is Google questioned about its ability to "innovate" — it's making cars that drive themselves, for example — even though it's often unclear when or even if these projects from Google's "X" lab will actually come to fruition. The company has been successful in getting thousands of individuals to pay $1,500 to test-drive the head-mounted computer that it built in Google X.
Apple, by contrast, in recent years has been dogged by concerns about its ability to innovate. During CEO Tim Cook's keynote presentation Tuesday night to kick off the D11 conference, one person went so far as to ask why Apple wouldn't let its shareholders or the public imagine the future. Cook responded by saying that Apple's customers like being "surprised."
Whether Google's periodic special-project sneak peeks give it an innovation halo on Wall Street is open to debate. It's worth noting, however, that shares of Google are up more than 20% on the year while Apple stock is down more than 15%.
With that in mind, here's a taste of some of the projects Google is working on in its Google X Lab.