Company / division: Alphabet
Hyundai Collaborates With Google Assistant In Further Connecting Homes To Cars – Hyundai (Jan 3, 2017)
This integration allows a Google Assistant user to remotely control their Hyundai through its Blue Link connected car system. We’re going to see more and more integrations between various voice assistants and cars, though of course Siri won’t be part of that yet because its third party integrations are limited to a handful of specific categories. Google is slowing ramping up its API efforts around the Assistant, which should add value in interesting ways.
The Ad Tech Renaissance – Brian O’Kelley (Jan 3, 2017)
This piece does a great job of breaking down the headline figures on the size of the online ad market into its constituent part, and argues that even though Google and Facebook dominate both ad dollars and growth in them, there’s more going on beneath the surface, and opportunities for other companies do exist in ad tech, even if not ad display. Separately, Brian argues that finding better ways to serve up ads on content sites is vital for their survival. I don’t know that I agree with all of this, but there’s some very good analysis here.
FCA and Google Collaborate on a Uconnect System Concept Powered by Android – Fiat Chrysler (Jan 2, 2017)
This is an interesting side benefit of Google’s partnership with Fiat Chrysler around autonomous vehicles – FCA is now using Android N to power a new version of its Uconnect connected car technology in cars. FCA is on the official list of Apple CarPlay partners too, so even though there’s deep integration with certain Android apps here, this doesn’t mean iPhones will be second-class citizens in the car. But it does mean Google is now in cars in two distinct ways while Apple still seems to be honing its strategy behind closed doors.
This Is How Google Wants To Make The Internet Speak Everyone’s Language – BuzzFeed News (Dec 30, 2016)
This is a great example of putting AI to work doing something useful. Too much of the conversation in the tech industry around AI is still about specs and methodologies rather than real, tangible benefits, but this is a wonderful exception. Companies need to show rather than tell around their AI capabilities if they want the message to stick.
The headline here is overblown – Facebook, Google, and many other over-the-top services have already eaten into telcos’ business, but end user Internet access remains pretty inviolate as a telco domain. This piece skims over that element very quickly, without addressing any of the big barriers to entry that exist. I’ve no doubt that some of the other changes discussed will occur, but that’s the big one that’s going to keep telcos relevant and even healthy going forward.
Great inside information here about FCA’s other self-driving initiatives beyond its Waymo partnership. The strategy highlights the big concern many carmakers have about partnering with Alphabet (or for that matter Apple) – that they will cede differentiation to the platform vendor and lose their own competitiveness in the process. Clearly, FCA remains committed to its Waymo deal, but it’s sensible to hedge its bets here.
Uber asked a lot of Pittsburgh for its self-driving cars, and offered back very little — Quartz (Dec 29, 2016)
As I’ve said previously, Uber has a pretty complex relationship with the municipalities where it operates, often flouting taxi regulations and more recently also self-driving ones. In the case of Pittsburgh, Uber has at least worked with the city, but it now appears that it has been something of a one-way relationship. Ironically, the dynamic here is reminiscent of that between Google Fiber and cities, in which the latter have bent over backwards to help Google, whereas in autonomous driving Google (now Waymo) has been more cooperative, while Uber borrows its Fiber playbook.
Fascinating thinking about an impending change to Google’s map crowdsourcing efforts – the company is shutting down Map Maker, its official crowdsourcing effort, but this just means edits will go into Google Maps itself, without much of the transparency of Map Maker. This, in turn, is a process rife with abuse today and with potential for much more anonymous mischief making going forward. The perils of relatively unsupervised crowdsourcing…
YouTube Needs to Become a TV Star – Bloomberg Gadfly (Dec 29, 2016)
This analysis does a great job of breaking down a couple of specific challenges relating to ad revenue from YouTube – its relatively low revenue per user, and the need to break into traditional television to tap into a bigger video advertising bucket. YouTube has evolved – notably introducing a subscription model – since Wojcicki took over, but arguably not enough. And YouTube is critical for Google growing its overall ad revenue.
Great summary of US digital and mobile ad spending in the first three quarters of 2016. Overall spending is way up, driven by mobile, while search advertising is mostly shifting from desktop to mobile rather than growing, and video is the only desktop segment that’s growing. However, as we’ve seen from eMarketer and other estimates, a great majority of the total growth is going to two companies – Google and Facebook – so though this all sounds like good news for the broader industry, others largely have to fight over the crumbs that fall from the table.
Why Google Might Sell Its Fiber Business — The Information (Dec 28, 2016)
Alphabet has been tightening its belt as regards the Other Bets ever since Ruth Porat came onboard as CFO. Fiber has already been pared back and its expansion plans put on hold, but this article suggests it will be spun or sold off entirely, which seems entirely plausible. There’s never been much synergy between Fiber and the rest of Google/Alphabet, and it’s arguably served its purpose.
Reversing Course, Amazon Testing Google Product Listing Ads, May Be Ramping Up Efforts | Merkle (Dec 28, 2016)
This is just third-party observation in the wild at this point, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt, but this would be a big win for Google and conversely a big concession for Amazon, which has stayed out of Google’s shopping search since it became a paid placement product. Third party data we linked to in September suggested 55% of online shopping searches start on Amazon, but 28% still start on search engines like Google. Amazon is here attempting to divert some of that 28% back to its site.
Amazon Echo and Google Home were smash hits this holiday season: voice developers see major holiday growth | VoiceLabs (Dec 27, 2016)
This data is purely directional, but it confirms what you’d instinctively suspect – that both Amazon Echo and Google Home sold well over the holidays. The gifting phenomenon with these devices suggests a mainstreaming which is new to this space over the past year – Amazon’s massive growth in holiday sales was testament to this too. All the same, it’s obvious that Echo far outsold Home.
This is an interesting potential new direction for YouTube, which would be moving into competition with Snapchat and other apps which allow users to apply filters. YouTube already does some of this, and this article is merely inferring this future direction from a job posting, but it seems a reasonable assumption and a logical next step for YouTube. The big question is whether users will want to use YouTube for the kind of casual sharing that Snapchat makes so attractive with its ephemeral nature.
A transparent attempt to shape the narrative around Waymo and Alphabet’s self-driving car technology, in an editorial jointly written by the head of Waymo and the mayor of Austin. It’s interesting to contrast Uber and Waymo’s relationships with municipalities – Waymo has largely gone out of its way to work with them, while Uber has a more mixed record (notably in San Francisco recently).
This is an interesting side effect of the fake news phenomenon, coupled with programmatic advertising – marketers advertise indiscriminately, leaving decisions about placement to computers, but this has backfired in the case of both fake news and alt-right news websites. The repercussions will be felt for some time, and will affect Google and many others in the process.
Cyanogen finds another way to flail by shutting down all services Dec 31st – The Verge (Dec 24, 2016)
This story calls this an ignominious end for Cyanogen, which had promised to be one of the more interesting competitors to the official version of Android, and that seems about right. This was a company and product with all kinds of interesting potential, but it was largely squandered, in part due to an excess of hubris. A good summary of all the implications has been posted at Lifehacker.
It looks like LG has pre-announced lots of their CES smartphone announcements, focused on mid-tier phones. Given how everyone but Apple and Samsung (and more recently the Google Pixel) is struggling in the premium market, it makes sense for LG to focus here, though competition from China is intensifying in this segment. Tough times for Android phone makers.
It’s become increasingly clear in recent months that Android Wear is struggling mightily. Without a shot in the arm from Google, it seems likely to wither on the vine. I still think a Pixel-like direct entry from Google is the best strategy here, but this might be something of a stopgap.
Google (now Waymo) partnered with Fiat Chrysler some time ago to use Chrysler Pacifica minivans for testing autonomous technology. This second partnership suggests some momentum, though it’s not yet clear how this fits in with Honda’s in-house autonomous R&D efforts.