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Google takes aim at other tech giants with multiple product launches

Google Allo

Google I/O, the internet giant’s annual developer conference, commenced with several announcements that appeared designed to take on major competitors at their own game.

There was no single highlight but the underlying theme was diversification, as Google rolled the dice in several areas in which competing tech juggernauts currently have a superior presence.

The launch with arguably the greatest long-term significance was Google Assistant, a voice-driven platform for interacting with search and hence the other Google products. Google describes it as “…an ongoing two-way dialogue between you and Google that understands your world and helps you get things done.”

It seems very reminiscent of Apple’s Siri, but is also being positioned as an upgrade to Google Now, with lots of contextual, presumptive suggestions depending on where it knows you are or what it knows you’re doing. The video below explains some of its capabilities further.

Google Home is an internet-connected speaker/microphone that is positioned in direct opposition to the Amazon Echo, to bring Google Assistant into the smart home environment. It’s designed to be ‘always on’ and connected to other clever devices that you will be able to command with your voice. It was designed by the team behind the Chromecast media streaming dongle which, if you have it, will allow voice control of your TV content too.

Facebook dominates mobile instant messaging everywhere outside of east Asia and Google wants to do something about that. Its latest attempt takes the form of Allo, an IM app also designed to work with the new Assistant. The clever bit is the insertion of Google top tips into existing IM chat coupled with the ability to take immediate actions from them. A companion video calling app called Duo was also announced, which is apparently optimised for slow network speeds.

Once Google had finished firing across the bows of its competitors it got to Android, for which the most eye-catching development was a preview of Instant Apps, a facility that will allow some apps to run instantly, without the need to install. Google also previewed Android Wear 2.0, which includes standalone watch apps that run independently of a smartphone and a new virtual reality platform called Daydream.

“Google Home and Assistant is a strong contender to Amazon’s Alexa platform purely by virtue of Google’s search advantage and artificial intelligence investment,” said Geoff Blaber of CCS Insight. “Nonetheless, it has a gap to close in third party service integration in this early phase of pervasive, ambient computing. Allo and Duo face a huge challenges from entrenched alternatives with sizeable user bases but with conversation becoming a platform this is a strategic necessity for Google. Android will be the tool to build adoption and usage but comes amidst growing regulatory scrutiny.”

Google has a classic Silicon Valley ‘fail fast’ mentality, in so much as it’s happy to launch products, see how they go, and can them if the market doesn’t seem keen. The flip side of this is that it sometimes doesn’t give them much support, thus increasing the probability of failure. The Assistant/Home/Allo combination seems solid, but the tricky bit will be persuading consumers to use them in preference to established competitors, and that will require investment.

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