Google announced a slew of new hardware at its annual event last week. This included some new smartphones, a new Chromebook, earbuds, a Google Home Mini and much more. But there was a common theme among all the products announced at Google's event, and that was Google Assistant. The search giant showed how it has now gone all-in with the Google Assistant, making it part of virtually every product Google has – both software and hardware. Obviously for customers, that's a good thing, as in contrast to the number of services Google has killed off in the past (Google News, Buzz, etc), it appears that Google Assistant is going to be sticking around for a while.
Google Assistant was first announced last year, and it appeared to be the natural progression of Google Now – at least the voice aspect of Google Now. It debuted on the Google Pixel smartphones, the Google Home and Google's Allo messaging app. Earlier this year, it launched on all Android smartphones running Android 6.0 or later, and then later launched on iOS. Which showed that Google wanted the Assistant to be available everywhere. Now, Google is moving the Assistant to even more platforms, including Chrome OS, headphones and even cameras. Which means no matter where you go, you'll have access to the Google Assistant. However there is an issue with having the Assistant on many different platforms, and it does include the f word, we're talking about fragmentation. We've already seen this with the Assistant on smartphones versus Android Wear smartwatches and even when compared to Google Home. The Assistant is able to do some things on Google Home that it can't do on a smartphone and vice versa. That's something that Google is going to need to fix in the coming months, otherwise it'll leave customers with a bad taste in their mouth.
Chrome OS gets Google Assistant, however at this point, it's only on the Pixelbook. Which actually gained a Google Assistant specific button. That's a cool button to have, allowing you to quickly press the button instead of having the Pixelbook always listening for that "Ok Google" trigger phrase. While the vocal command is doable on the Pixelbook, it's not a good idea due to battery life. As the Pixelbook would be using extra juice to always be listening, and Chromebooks are known for their great battery life – we're talking 10+ hours – so that's something Google likely wanted to steer clear of. But with the Google Assistant, you'll be able to ask it all sorts of questions on your Chromebook. This is going to be good for kids that are doing their homework as they'll be able to quickly ask Google a question, but then again it may keep them from learning how to do things like math – as they will be able to simply ask Google for the answer. Homework aside, you'll also have the ability to control your smart home from your Pixelbook, which is a rather interesting aspect.
When it comes to headphones, the Google Assistant can be a big deal. The Pixel Buds that Google debuted at its hardware event, were not the first pair of earbuds or headphones to come with the Google Assistant included, but they are the first pair from Google, and ones which also offer another interesting feature – real-time translation. But back to the topic at hand, Google Assistant in headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or the Pixel Buds, is super useful as it's going to allow you to switch songs, switch playlists, or go from playing music in Google Play Music to listening to a podcast in Pocket Casts without even needing to touch your phone. Of course, those are just some of the examples of what you'll be able to do with the Assistant in your ear and while it will be a bit odd for people around you – hearing you saying something like "Ok Google, play Humble on Spotify" to your headphones – it is definitely a nice feature to have.
Obviously, hardware isn't the only hint that Google is going all in on the Google Assistant, there is also the launch of the SDK (Software Development Kit). While the company actually launched this earlier in the year at Google I/O, it's now gaining more traction due to the Assistant virtually becoming available everywhere. You see, before the SDK and before Google Assistant got opened up to more apps, functionality was pretty limited. Yes, you could ask Google Assistant questions like, what's the weather? Who's the president? etc., but you couldn't have Google Assistant read you headlines from a news organization like CNBC or CNN. You couldn't have it walk you through an at-home workout on Fitstar, or really anything else like that. It was simply for asking simple questions or controlling your smart home. Opening apps up to the Google Assistant changed all of that though. In fact, Google Assistant can do so many things now that Google has added an "Explore" section, giving you examples of what it can do. And this is only going to increase over time and as more developers start using the SDK and building things that work with Google Assistant.
Google Assistant is already a great product from Google, but there is one area where it is lagging behind Amazon Alexa, and that's in the smart home. It is lagging behind with integration on other platforms and products. But it is something that Google is working on. And with Google going all in with the Assistant, it likely won't be lagging behind for much longer. Since the Assistant launched on the Pixel last year, it has gotten much better, and this is due to Google using both artificial intelligence and machine learning on the Assistant. Allowing users to talk to it like you might another human, instead of having to say a specific command. Google wants the Google Assistant to be your personal assistant, and although this is something Google tried before with Google Now, Google learned a lot from Now and is still learning from it. And with Google Assistant, Google is taking the next step by moving away from having an interface on your smartphone. There are rumors and speculation that Google wants to have you only interact with your phone using your voice and although it is obvious we are still quite a way from that time, Google is getting closer to making it a reality.
As a company, Google has never really seen hardware as its forte with the company much more focused on its Search and ad business. In fact, Google still makes around 95% of its revenue from search and ads, which is something that is unlikely to change anytime soon. But Google Assistant is its newest product. Like Search, Assistant is being injected in to every piece of hardware that Google has or can reach (including the iPhone and iPad) and this is all in an effort to get you to do more searching, which in-turn brings more money to Google. And although Google has yet to start running ads through the Google Assistant, it likely isn't far away. After all, it took Google over 5 years to finally bring ads to Gmail on mobile devices – and it still isn't in Inbox, Gmail's newer email client. That's the big picture for Google, getting more search queries, and more ads, which is going to drive in more revenue. The rest of its products make up very little revenue for Google, since it is all sold at cost – although many would argue that the Pixel smartphones and Pixelbook are not sold at cost, these are not big sellers and so they don't make much of an impact for Google in terms of revenue.
Google bringing the Assistant to all platforms basically shows that Google thinks it is ready to be used by everyone. The Assistant was in "beta" back when it launched last year on the Pixel and in Allo, and that was the first time that anyone outside of Google actually got a chance to use the Assistant. Obviously it was pretty mediocre at the time but within a year it has gotten so much better. With Google pouring even more resources into the Assistant and opening the SDK, it's only going to get better as time goes on.