Aldo Agostinelli

Hardware and Artificial Intelligence: these are the tools Google is planning to use overtake its main competitors (Apple, Amazon and Facebook) and climb up the chart of the most powerful tech-empires. According to the Forbes 2016 ranking, the combined worth of the aforementioned tech players is 320 billion dollars.  Read in Italian.

During the Made by Google event, held in San Francisco on October 4, the Mountain View giant launched its brand new “weapons”: Google Home, a smart speaker, and Pixel and Pixel XL, two smartphones, measuring five and 5.5 inches respectively, and are the first brand’s first devices to integrate a Virtual Assistant.

The company strategy is clear: integrating hardware and software, and creating a new eco-system of devices based on Artificial Intelligence.

“If I think of the future of the digital world, it is obvious to me that we are evolving from the dominance of mobile technologies towards the one of Artificial Intelligence.” Sundar Pichai, Google CEO

Launched with the slogan ‘To each their own Google!’, the Assistant is expected to be Google’s trump card to compete and, hopefully, win over fellow digital assistants Siri (Apple) and Alexa (Amazon). The target is to create a fully immersive experience for Google users, supporting them anywhere in the world and on any device (phones and, eventually, the future smart cars). Already used as a starting point for the development of Android Google Now, Google Assistant exploits all of the most technologically advanced learning skills, including the Knowledge Graph semantic search which can access over 70 billion pieces of data.

Pixel by Google, which integrates the Assistant system, is a direct challenge to Apple. Conceived, engineered and designed in house, not only does it look like the iPhone 7 but it is also more expensive (about $870) and has better features (better camera quality, unlimited image and video storage and a user-friendly procedure to switch from iPhone).

Will the big G succeed in beating its competitor at what has traditionally always been its main strength? It would be naive to think this is just a matter of high-tech components and performance without taking into consideration the psychology and attitude of those who choose to buy a smartphone by Cupertino.

Although iPhones account for just a 12% of the global smartphones market – against the 87% held by Android– the former generates 90% of the profit of the whole industry. iOS users are not only fashion driven, but are also open to innovation and are willing to spend on and offline, investing in high-quality, latest generation devices.

Aldo Agostinelli

Consequently, Assistant is expected to make a difference – even in the home. The direct opponent of Echo by Amazon, right down to its very competitive price of $129 (about $50 dollars lower than Echo), Google Home is a voice controlled speaker which can operate IoT home automation systems and respond to users’ requests. For instance, it allows users to control videos and films displayed on any connected screen and listen to music coming from any source, making services such as YouTube Red, Spotify, Netflix, Pandora or TuneIn always accessible.

To make it even more competitive, in the near future Google Home will let users connect to services provided by other companies: they will be able to book an Uber or a take away dinner on OpenTable (tasks which Echo can already perform in the USA).

When it comes to Facebook, on the other hand, the war between the champion of internet searches and the king of social networks, is fought via messaging devices. Zuckerberg has applied AI to Messenger, the messaging system used by over one billion people all over the world and open to other companies’ virtual assistants, which even enables people to shop from their chat screens. For its part, Google has launched Allo, one app integrating the Assistant system, which can be installed on iPhone. Messenger has reached, depending on which app store you consult, the top four positions of the chart. However, Allo is still struggling to keep up, and can be found down near the bottom of the chart, around the 100th position. Thus, we won’t be able to see the results of this competition for quite a while.

Although Google, like all the main players in the tech market, is trying to increase customer loyalty and to keep users inside its “walled garden”, i.e. within the boundaries of its services and devices, it would be advisable that all such companies to stop and think. Although no-one talked about advertising inside the Assistant ecosystem during the Made by Google event, as inferred by Fast Take di Mec, it is quite obvious that Google will need to generate profits through ads.

“Today we can generate direct actions (for instance: “turn on the light”) or conversational actions (such as asking questions) inside the Assistant. An approach which reminds us of the skills which can be actually programmed”.

Considering the increasing importance given to voice control, even to the detriment of advertising which has become less visible and relevant, to avoid falling behind the pack brands should start developing excellent customer experiences based on voice control, which could attract new long-term customers.

What do you think about Google products? How should brands use Assistant to efficiently share their messages?

Tweet me @AgostinelliAldo or share your thoughts here.

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Aldo Agostinelli