Google has been rather busy over the course of this year. In addition to entering a wide variety of new markets and driving advancements in a broad range of technology sectors, the Mountain View-based tech giant was also occupied with defending its practices from global media and regulators more than it used to. Some of the company's efforts worked out, some didn't, and the jury is still out on a lot of projects Google started in the last 12 months, but all in all, this has been a rather exciting year for the Alphabet-owned tech giant.
With that in mind, here are the top ten of Google's highest and lowest points in 2016. Regardless of how this year will look in retrospect, there's no doubt that each point listed below will remain a relevant topic of discussion for the foreseeable future.
New focus on consumer electronics
While Google has previously dabbled in consumer electronics with products like Chromecast, this is the year when the Alphabet-owned company finally decided to go all in and started offering a variety of electronics exclusively branded as being made by Google. The Google Pixel and the Google Pixel XL ended up being fantastic flagships in almost every aspect, while the Google Home connected speaker proved to be a worthy competitor to Amazon's Echo. The company also introduced the Daydream View VR headset, an affordable head-mounted unit for experiencing the wonders of virtual reality. Finally, Google Wifi highlighted all of the shortcomings of traditional routers by providing consumers with a cheap, efficient, and elegant solution for managing reliable wireless connections. So, on the hardware side of things, Google managed to make a lot of headlines over the course of 2016, and for all the right reasons.
Android Wear is MIA
It's been almost three years since Google originally debuted Android Wear, but the said wearable platform lost a lot of steam in the meantime. Out of all large manufacturers, only LG launched a new Android Wear smartwatch in 2016, and other major players like Motorola and Huawei decided to skip this year entirely. In addition to the fact that consumers still aren't terribly excited by the idea of a connected watch, this ecosystem is also suffering due to the fact that Google kept pushing back the stable release of Android Wear 2.0 which is now expected to launch in 2017. Seeing as how wearables were supposed to spearhead the Internet of Things revolution, this turn of events is rather disappointing to witness.
Android support for Chrome OS
2016 has been a great year for Chromebook owners as Google started rolling out Android support for Chrome OS. The ability to run Android apps on a Chromebook is incredibly convenient and adds a lot of value to a device that already offers great value for money, so hopefully, Google will continue these efforts in 2017 and make Chrome OS even more attractive to use.
Allo and Duo failed to catch on
The Mountain View-based tech giant confused a lot of people by launching Google Allo and Google Duo. While both apps are reliable, intuitive, and efficient, Google didn't do a great job at explaining that Hangouts is now supposed to be an enterprise-focused app, while these two new offerings are here to replace private communications. Despite investing quite a bit into marketing these apps, it's evident that the average consumer can't be bothered with trying to figure out the difference between Allo, Duo, Hangouts, and the stock Android SMS app, especially since there are other, more comprehensive solutions on the market. Due to that state of affairs, neither Allo nor Duo managed to attract a large number of users, at least not the type of users willing to stick around.
Google Assistant is the real deal
Google Assistant is probably the most remarkable feature of Google Allo, and the fact that the company's latest and greatest AI helper is now also available on the Google Pixel, Google Pixel XL, and Google Home certainly helped Google to reach more users worldwide. As things stand right now, Google Assistant is the most capable and intuitive consumer-grade AI companion, and as such, it likely has a bright future ahead of it.
Antitrust issues with the European Union
Over the course of 2016, Google got into trouble with the European Commission on three separate antitrust fronts. The EU's antitrust watchdog is currently targeting the company's Android, Search, and advertising business and is apparently rather confident that it has a strong case against the Alphabet-owned company. In addition to massive fines, any sanctions by the European Commission will likely also result in a lot of negative PR for Google.
Increased focus on renewable energy
Earlier this month, Google announced that its operations will run entirely on renewable energy come next year. The company already made a lot of significant steps in this endeavor and a lot of other tech giants are expected to follow suit shortly. Given that turn of events, Google will probably be responsible for reducing a significant amount of global carbon emissions, both directly and indirectly.
The self-driving car project is moving along nicely
Google has been investing in self-driving cars for years now, and according to latest reports, the company is now finally ready for stage two of this ambitious project. While Google's autonomous driving division recently lost the bright mind of Chris Urmson, latest reports indicate that the Alphabet-owned company is now ready for commercialization of its technologies following some rapid advancements in 2016. In other words, thanks to its ongoing efforts, Google will likely be at the forefront of the autonomous driving revolution.
The popularity of fake news caused a lot of controversy in the last few months seeing how many individuals and independent organizations accused Google and Facebook of disseminating factually incorrect information, alleging that the thereof influenced the outcome of this year's US presidential election. While Google's CEO Sundar Pichai approached this controversy in a rather humble manner by announcing new anti-fake news initiatives and admitting that the company could have probably done more to stop fake news from spreading, it remains to be seen how quickly will the general public be willing to forgive the company for its negligence.
Fuchsia, a new open source operating system currently in development by Google remains one of the company's biggest mysteries in 2016. It's hard to predict whether developing a third lightweight OS will end up being a good move by Google, but industry experts remain rather divided on this announcement. On the one hand, Fuchsia may prove to be the ultimate OS of the future. However, seeing how it's built on a different kernel to that of Android and Chrome OS and how Google is designing it to run on virtually everything, it remains to be seen whether the company is just wasting resources by trying to develop a versatile OS that no one wants to use.