Google, one of the world's preeminent platform companies, held Google I/O, its annual developers conference, this week and laid out several thrilling updates to its ecosystem, covering Android, Google Assistant and Home, and a couple new platform opportunities.
Android Is Only Getting Bigger and Better
First off, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that over 2 billion devices use Android. The only things that have more users are sunlight and oxygen, so let that number sink in for a moment - 2 billion.
Google's sole purpose for purchasing and building up Android was to ensure that people used Google Search on mobile, so it could continue to dominate the information economy and reap all the ad dollars early.
That market saturation of 2 billion Android users sounds like a rather solid defensive moat for Google. It seems unlikely that anyone uses Bing intentionally on a smartphone.
That said, Android is not only taking over the world, it's getting better. The new version, Android O, is now in a limited public beta and the company is finally embracing Kotlin, a more modern coding language for Android development. This mean that developing Android apps is less frictional and lowers the barrier to entry for new developers.
As well, a new and lighter version of the operating system, Android Go, is launching soon and is designed to run on cheap smartphones that run lower on processing power and sophistication. Google is clearly aiming to capture the parts of the world coming online for the first time and define how they conceive being connected.
AI For Everyone and Everything
Artificial intelligence was a cornerstone of this year's I/O conference and Google seems determined to integrate the technology into its products wherever possible.
For starters, Google Assistant will keep getting better and better. It's coming to iPhone, becoming more conversational and accessible, learning new languages, and will enable users to perform more non-Google actions across their devices.
As well, Google Home is getting an upgraded version, with new features like connecting to more devices and proactive assistance, a modality for the smart device to inform users of important information, such as inclement weather warnings or pertinent local events.
What looks like the most exciting application of Google's work in AI is Google Lens. With the pronouncement that it'll be available "soon," Lens will integrate with Assistant and work to identify whatever the user is viewing through the device's camera. Assistant will then offer recommended actions the user could take relevant to what is being viewed.
This means a user could scan a restaurant and, assuming the computer vision functions smoothly, Assistant could share reviews of the establishment and offer the chance to look at the menu or make a reservation.
Additionally, Pichai spoke on how Assistant can be used to enhance and clean up photos suffering from poor qualities like blurring or low lighting.
One last awesome AI-related announcement: Google.ai. The information platform is sharing everything from research papers to tools it builds to support the community involved in AI, a testament to the company's commitment to openness.
Breaking New Ground
Google's been doing search for almost 20 years and it's learned a lot doing so. That's why the Google for Jobs reveal just makes sense. Finding a job is challenging and most of the leading incumbents lack the refinement or capabilities of Google.
This also looks like some good thumbing of the nose at some of Google's platform competitors, Microsoft and Facebook. Microsoft closed its acquisition of LinkedIn last year and Facebook started launching job recruitment capabilities for company pages. It will be interesting to see how Google leverages it superior search power to make the job hunt an easier process.
Google also gave its virtual reality platform, Daydream, some legs as it announced a lineup of partner-manufacturers that would ship smartphones capable of supporting the platform. So far, not much word has been given on the timelines for getting Daydream-ready devices on the market and in users' hands, but this is another interesting jab at Facebook, which owns VR company Oculus.
This year's Google I/O can be deemed a huge success. The company understands it needs an outside network of developers to support its initiatives and its announcements appear that those developers are still a priority. Good job, Google.