Google I/O 2016


A lot happened in that first hour. Google introduced a massive upgrade to Now, deeply integrated it into a new and delightfully human communication platform, and announced a standalone piece of hardware so everyone in your home can interact with that system as equals. That piece of hardware will also act as a command point for connected home, media controls for your television and stereo, and act as a personal assistant using nothing but your voice. The whole presentation felt like a single announcement, a single thought being introduced where users could dip a toe in or dive off the side and still get the same basic experience.

What Google introduced today is a whole lot more than just a couple of apps and a gadget, and that's why we'll probably be waving goodbye to several other Google apps in the not-so-distant future.

Google Home

Google Assistant represents a massive step forward for Google's efforts in interpreting the needs of the users and acting on those needs. A truly conversational form of Google Now combined with in-line offers to complete tasks for you is the kind of thing you see in movies. It's the beginning of Tony Stark's JARVIS or Samantha from Her, and while that's bound to re-ignite the conversation about handing data over to Google in exchange for free stuff there are more immediate issues for existing Google users to deal with. The individual pieces that have been harvested from Google+ are either doing quite well — like Google Photos — or seem to be on their way out.

Allo, integrated with Google Assistant, is clearly the future.

Hangouts wasn't mentioned at all during today's presentation. Google announced Allo and Duo, a powerful new messenger service and a deeply human video app, as though Hangouts didn't exist. It's not hard to see why, either. Hangouts, which was supposed to be the app that unified all of Google's messaging experiences, is the exact opposite of Allo and Duo. It's a mechanical app that has had a few new ideas bolted onto it but never really felt finished, and certainly doesn't keep up with the friendlier and more popular messenger apps Google wants to compete with right now. There will undoubtedly be those who ask why Hangouts is being abandoned, but the answer couldn't be more obvious. Allo, integrated with Google Assistant, is clearly the future.

It's not easy to appreciate the scorched earth method of unifying the larger themes in Google's ecosystem right now, but that's what is happening. Starting from scratch and building on the ideas that work is how we get things like the recently announced Spaces, which takes Collections from Google+ and builds out from individual ideas. Assistant can be a part of all of these smaller ideas and offer users more from within, without needed to feel like you are signing up for the entire Google ecosystem and everything that goes with such a massive umbrella.

Google Assistant

Whether it's the wrist, the car, the phone, or the home, Google wants to be there and Assistant is how that's going to happen. It's less about making sure the Google logo is in the top left of everything users see and do, and more about being there to answer the question or provide the service now. Taking this thought down to its most basic form, pushing ads for Google means being able to demonstrate that, as a company, it knows exactly what users want. Assistant, and all of its connected services and products, take being able to know what users want to an entirely new level. It's going to mean ditching a few things along the way, but the end result looks like it will be so much better.