I/O 2016: what is Google good at?

Attending my first ever Google I/O event and listening to the keynote live, I wanted to hear all about the exciting products Google plans to introduce this year. Yet instead of revolutionary new products, many of the presenters talked about smaller, evolutionary features. It wasn’t disappointing, per se, but it wasn’t thrilling, either. The only product I want to get my hands on and play with (from the user and developer perspective) was the new Google Home, which won’t be introduced until later this year.

Mario Queiroz introducing Google Home at the I/O keynote

Mario Queiroz introducing Google Home at the I/O keynote

Granted, in that list of products are a new messaging app (Allo!) a video calling app, Daydream, a VR platform, an entire new way of using apps without installing them (OK, I found that one fascinating and will explore in a future post) called Instant Apps, and some fun, new Android Wear features, which show a certain maturity in this entire product group.

What I ended up asking myself at the end of the keynote is what is Google really good at? What does it do better than anyone else? Search, sure, but also the new, smart ways of accessing that information with dialogs that look and sound nothing like the search queries of only a few years ago. Google has gained an understanding of how users interact with their personal data, such as friends, events, and tasks, and generic information such as news, media, and Wikipedia. The ability to understand context in a query, and especially in a series of queries (who directed the Revenant? What else did he direct?) shows a deep understanding of how people want to access information in a more “natural” format. This is far from stilted, keyword-based way that was the norm in the past decade.

It is that intelligence that Google can imbue in almost everything it creates, from bots, messenger, search and assistants, to Home, Auto and Wear, and create products no one can even come close to emulating. After all, when Facebook introduced Messenger bots, it relies on companies to create their own, leading to less than stellar results. Google can and will own this area of expertise for many years, and hopefully many more interesting implementations and products.

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