Google I/O: The Pendulum Swings

The pendulum has swung. Perhaps this is a product of being 10+ years into the smartphone cycle. In the past, we walked away from developer conferences with lots of new products and features. Now, there is a greater focus on privacy, user controls, and awareness of the time we spend on our devices. We saw this at Facebook’s F8 and Microsoft Build, we got some of it at Google I/O today, and we anticipate more of it at Apple’s WWDC on June 4th.

Heading into Google I/O we were anticipating announcements and commentary around a few key themes: device usage, AI, and privacy. Here are announcements relevant to those themes along with our key takeaways.

Device usage (aka smartphone addiction):

  • Shush and Wind Down modes for Android users to limit distractions
  • “Pretty please” mode for Google Assistant to encourage good manners
  • Android P focuses on simplicity, intelligence, and digital wellbeing
  • Android Dashboard tells users how much time they have spent on their phone and on which apps.
  • Takeaway: Google is taking smartphone addiction seriously, as evidenced by these new features that increase awareness and control of your device usage. Impressive additions.

AI: 

  • Six new voices for Assistant (John Legend coming soon!)
  • Food ordering for pickup and delivery with Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Door Dash, and, presumably, more to come.
  • Photos API allowing apps to search libraries based on image content
  • TPU 3.0 (tensor processing unit) to better train machine learning systems
  • Smart Displays for Google Assistant to compete with Echo Show
  • Conversation support to avoid saying “OK Google” before every voice query
  • Google Duplex allowing Google Assistant to make phone calls on a user’s behalf
  • Takeaway: Google is living up to its AI-first mantra with 7+ AI-related announcements. While none of them is a breakthrough, Google continues to remove friction from our lives. Collectively, these announcements help Google retain its pole position in AI.

Privacy: 

  • Takeaway: Noticeably absent from I/O was any measurable announcement regarding privacy; Google appears to be treading carefully around the topic.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.