Google Now And The Priorities At Google

Mark Bergen (@mhbergen) wrote an interesting story on Google on how most of the original Google Now team has left the company, mainly due to a lack of prioritisation.

Although we need further reports to confirm this and to get a picture of what the consequences may be, I found this very interesting because it aligns with some predictions I had made previously.

  1. Predicting Android’s Change Of Direction: Thoughts from Andy Rubin’s Demotion (Apr. 2013, in Japanese)
  2. Who Is To Blame For Samsung’s Bad Fortune? (Nov. 2014)
  3. Android No Longer Competes With iOS (May. 2015)

Mark Bergen’s article in essence says;
1. Google Now was born within Android.
2. Larry Page heavily prioritised it, but then became too busy with moonshots.
3. Sundar Pichai de-prioritised Google Now as an independent intelligent assistant, and moved it from Android to Search.

My argument was that whereas Andy Rubin wanted Android to be the best mobile operating system in and of itself, Larry Page (and consequently Sundar Pichai) thought of it as a gateway to their Search cash cow. Hence priorities are determined based on potential contribution to the Search business, and not on the merits of Android itself. It seems to match Mark Bergen’s discussion, with the exception of heavy support from Larry Page, which I didn’t expect because of how he removed Andy Rubin.

At this point, it is difficult to say whether Google Now should be a priority for Google or not. I suspect that Android is more focused on emerging countries than developed ones, and if so, then de-prioritising Now makes sense. It’s also unclear whether Google Now will really provide good advertising opportunities. Despite theoretically being attractive for ads, I do not know of any mechanism provided by Google for purchasing ad space, and it is possible that it isn’t really very good. Sundar Pichai may be fully aware of the consequences of what he is doing, and that he is convinced that it is better for Google long-term. Google’s multiple projects were always in conflict in one way or another, and it’s possible that Sundar is simply clearing the mess up.

What I do worry about is the fate of Android OEMs. Android, if it is to compete with iOS at all, needs to have features that are unique to it. Tight integration of Google Now seemed to be a great opportunity. Without it, Android will struggle even more in the high-end. As a result, profits for Android OEMs will get even worse.