Print Posted By Diya Selva on 01/04/2018 in Internet

Google Now, Then and Beyond: What to Expect in 2018.

Google Now, Then and Beyond:  What to Expect in 2018.

2016 and 2017 were bittersweet years for Google. The company saw double digit surges in sales, launched a couple of widely acclaimed products and recorded millions of new users for its products.  It also got embroiled (and still is) in a number of widespread scandals, including a penalty from a major European court stemming from its own business practices. Still, at the end of the day, Google came out on top. The company continues to go from strength to strength, proving itself a leader in the fields of mobile, search, advertising and intelligent computing.

At Google’s i/o 2017, (See video below) CEO Sundar Pichai reported that the company was seeing a staggering 1 billion monthly users across its main range of products. Most of Google’s earlier products, including Gmail, YouTube, Android and Google Drive have gained more popularity with users over the years, and even more so in 2017, which explains the numbers. YouTube, for example, averages 1 billion monthly active users, while the company’s online storage service Google Drive now averages 800 million monthly active users, up from 100 million in 2014.

Google Photos boasts a good 500 million monthly users, a feat Google attributes to the machine learning abilities the app uses to organize people’s photographs. Google’s most successful product yet is the Android operating system, which was active on over 2 billion devices as of 2017. Android is carried by almost every phone manufacturer in the world, giving Google and its core products a good share of the market.

Some of the success of Google’s endeavours can be attributed to its current leadership, headed by CEO Sundar Pichai. Sundar, now 45, is hailed as a calm, thoughtful leader that’s never afraid to make the big decisions, especially after consulting with the most important people on the topic. He made headlines in August 2017 for dismissing one of his engineers, a one James Damore, after he wrote a 10-page memo detailing his theory that biological differences were the reason for the gender gap in Silicon Valley. Google’s employees must love his leadership style too; he received a 97% approval rating on Glassdoor from employees in 2016.

Google has had its fair share of successes ever since Pichai assumed office in 2015, following the departure of founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to start Google’s now parent company, Alphabet Inc.  Bloomberg reports that the company’s core ad business saw a 17.8% increase in profits in 2016, a success mirrored in the company’s cloud services and physical product business.

So who’s Sundar Pichai? The man behind some of Google’s most prolific and innovative products was born and bred in India to a lower class family in 1973. He told the Guardian that he started seeing the power of technology in improving lives when his family acquired their first telephone, which helped him skip the long queue at a medical centre miles away. Such events have been major inspirations for his interest in solving the world’s problems with technology ever since.

Pichai’s first major role after joining Google in 2004 was as head of product management and innovation efforts, a role that saw him lead the team of designers that developed the first prototype of Google’s Chrome browser. At the time, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had the largest market presence, providing way more competition for the yet-to-be-approved Chrome browser. Pichai’s expertise at product design stems from an early immersion in metallurgical engineering at India’s IIT Kharagpur, a degree in Material Sciences and Engineering from Stanford and a stint at McKinsey & Company’s management consulting department. Google Chrome was later launched in 2008 and now covers 60% of the market.

Pichai’s ascent to CEO position at Google was years in the making. In 2011, he was promoted to Senior Vice President of the company and later head of Android in 2013. Two years later, when their exit was announced, both Google’s founders were vocal in support for Pichai as next CEO for Google. He had previously been tipped for Microsoft’s top position, which later went to fellow Indian American Satya Nadella.

Pichai has had to lead Google through trying times, and for the most part, he has won the battle. But Google is a big company with 60,000 employees, and its CEO is well aware of the risks such a size poses. Still, he believes the future is ever so bright for the company.

So what’s Google planning for the future? It’s anyone wild guess, really. For Google, anything is possible. Google maintains research labs that facilitate intensive research on new projects, which when combined with its big data banks and vast resources, make for a strong foundation on which to start.

The company already has a number of innovative projects planned, including its driverless cars and Google Glass. Google’s self driving car project is directly related to the company’s idea of a smart city, and has already seen some success with its driving tests, while Project Google Glass is promising a whole new future with its wearable technology.

Analysts believe that Google is also looking to further expand its robotic endeavours, a theory substantiated by the company’s acquisition of 8 different robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics. One area Google is certainly interested in is artificial intelligence. CEO Sundar Pichai announced this shift in the company’s vision from ‘mobile first’ to ‘AI first’ at i/o 2017, so analysts expect the company to do more in this area starting in 2018 and beyond.

Following this new vision, Google has already starting integrating AI in its products and services. It recently released Smart Reply for Gmail, which suggests replies for emails and StreetView for Google Maps, which identifies venues by using photographs. Users have already taken up with Predictive Typing, another application of machine learning and AI.

Even Google’s latest products are now integrated with AI. Google Lens, which was first unveiled at i/o2017, operates by helping users identify plants, locations or objects by simply using their phone camera. The app’s functionality was largely helped by Google’s recent advancements in speech and image recognition, courtesy of machine learning. Google Lens’ additional ability to edit out objects in photos (much like Photoshop) was met with much praise, and is another example of Google’s latest attempt at machine learning and AI integration.

It’s not wild thinking to assume that Google could also be planning to join the space race soon, or be working on a secretive smart city that sounds like a set for a dystopian movie. One thing’s for sure: Google is on its way up in 2018, and it’s changing the way we see the world, one innovation at a time.

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