Now is the wrong time for Google Bard

Android figures
(Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

Sometimes you get the urge to yell First!

Apparently, so do Google and its CEO Sundar Pichai who scrambled to remind the world that Google is the king of AI and has an AI-powered chatbot/search bot/trash bot, and it's named Bard.

Cool name aside, Bard is one of those things that should have been kept in the oven for a while. No, I'm not talking about any one particular thing that shows why the timing isn't right for Bard, but rather that all these things form a pattern: Google should have waited. 

Google could have afforded to wait. In a rush to beat Microsoft's ChatGPT partnership announcement, Google couldn't wait to tell us it has the same thing and has people testing it right now. And all that did was cost the company money, make employees upset, and make Google look like it's behind in AI.

Money is the root of all Google

William Shakespeare

(Image credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Forget the notion that a mistake about astronomy is what caused Google's stock to fall 9% on the day of the Bard demonstration. While I'm sure some investors are total astronomy buffs, it was really one of those things that only the internet really noticed. 

Investors did notice that Google was fiddling with its big money-maker, though. Google Search generates as much money as a small country for the Mountain View giant and between the new Bing making some sort of play and Google talking about making significant changes to search, investors get a little twitchy. 

You can't really blame them — we've all seen Google's ideas go south and Bard could be another. The difference is this time it would affect the company's bottom line should it fail. 

That bottom line is all the investors care about.

Google Search page on a Google Pixel 7 Pro

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

What the mistake did was confirm Google's original fears about jumping into a consumer AI product too soon to be right. Google has a reputation as the place to go for the right information and getting it wrong is something Google can't afford to do. Getting it wrong is also something AI does a lot of, and it will continue to do it.

This isn't a problem for Microsoft, which has a lot less to lose and plenty to gain. Very few people regularly use Bing and it's not a synonym for a search like Google is. Nobody says I'll Bing it and find out because basically nobody is Bing-ing anything. People will overlook more mistakes from Bing than they would from Google.

What integrating ChatGPT does for Microsoft is draw eyeballs in. A lot of people are going to use Bing for the first time in a while and notice something they like. For example, if you hit up Bing for something you might see how well it does an image search on your phone, and maybe you'll like it enough to switch. 

At least they didn't name it Cortana.

The biggest winner is, of course, OpenAI which saw its coffers swell with Microsoft dollars. Good for them — they were able to leverage existing tech in a way that made people want to use it. That's exactly what companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft did to get where they are today.

The biggest losers seem to be Google employees. According to CNBC, plenty of them are quite unhappy with the whole Bard reveal.

"Dear Sundar, the Bard launch and the layoffs were rushed, botched, and myopic. “Please return to taking a long-term outlook."

This and plenty of other discord is what Google employees are sharing on an internal forum. It seems that the workers feel the tech isn't ready, Google isn't ready, and consumers aren't yet ready. It doesn't help that it was a surprise to almost everyone working at Google.

Now what?

ChatGPT getting it wrong

There is so much wrong here. (Image credit: Future)

For us, the answer is easy — sit back and watch the spectacle. If you have money invested in Google you might not enjoy it in the short term, but remember that both the internet and the stock market have very short memories.

For Google, it's too late to turn back. Once you let the cat out of the bag you can only stick to the plan and hope for the best. I sincerely hope that Bard's testing phase is long enough to both work out the bugs (that's probably not possible) and to think of all the horrible things people will try to do with it (also not possible) before it shows up for normal, well-adjusted people to use. We really don't need a Google Tay.

Google is a global leader in AI technology and AI has been part of Google Search for a long time. Jumping the gun to take some wind out of Microsoft's sails was a dumb move that didn't need to happen.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.