Google’s Quest For Complete Control Of Your Digital Life

"Let us know everything about you. We promise it’ll be worth your while." This information and privacy tradeoff is nothing new, but today’s keynote showed perhaps the fullest realization of the power of buying into an ecosystem whole hog. And in contrast to Apple’s beautifully designed — and, in many cases, prohibitively expensive — hardware, Google touted and demonstrated Android’s ability to provide an immersive digital ecosystem at staggering scale.

Really interesting stuff being announced at Google I/O this week. But far more interesting than the announcements themselves are the trends Google is defining and the divergence at a meta level with Apple strategy.

Google is fully relying on their core values "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" and selling it as a benefit rather than a thread to privacy (as some competitors like to point out). That has two major implications.

“How do you say Kermit the Frog in Spanish?”

In this query, what looked like a simple query, we understood voice, we did natural language processing, we are doing image recognition, and finally translation, and making it all work in an instant. The reason we are able to do all of this is because of the investments we have made in machine learning. Machine learning is what helps us answer the question “What does a tree frog look like?” from millions of images around the world.

1/ Google and Apple strategies are diverging and getting better at different things. Google is making great advancements with cloud services, taking advantage of machine learning to (for example) scan and organize your photos. While Apple has taken a whole different approach, they are not interested in scanning your photos, because these are your photos. Instead Apple excel at hardware / software integration, a segment that Google doesn't entirely control.

The best realization of this strategy is the "Tap to Now" feature. The idea is fascinating and one of the best applications for AI that I've seen so far, but in order to properly work, again, you need to be fully invested in Google's services.

At Google, we’ve always worked hard at building products for everyone in the world. We try to look at technology and see if by using technology can we make a difference to a fundamental problem in people’s lives. That’s how we did Google search. Google search worked the same for everyone in the world, whether you were a rural kid in Indonesia or a professor at a world class research center, you had the same search results at your fingertips as long as you had access to a computer and connectivity.

2/ Google is separating the OS from the cloud. Apple rolls out a new OS and a set of dev tools every year that more or less everybody gets it right away. For Android in the other hand, annual releases don't make sense, because the cool stuff is in the cloud, so they are continually improving it. That goes in line with little adoption of the latest releases of Android OS. It makes no sense for them to tie their major features to the OS. That's because why the 95% of Android devices sport the latest version of Play Services, the gateway to the cloud that provides Google Now and Maps... all the stuff that Google benefits from in order to get data and feed their machine learning algorithms.