On the Q1 2013 earnings call last week, Larry Page spent a lot of his time taking about the future – a future that will not be social, as Page might have had us believe in the past. He didn’t mention Google+ once on the call, and social media only came up insofar as YouTube is social. That’s a switch!
So what does define the future of Google? The unifying theme just might be laziness. Almost every Google venture that Page spent time talking about is designed to cater to our increasing laziness and impatience as a society.
The web used to be a playground for tech nerds, but now it's for everybody, including people who know nothing about technology. As tech gets easier and more accessible, 5% of people mourn the loss of the control, but the rest of us lazy bums love it.
Talking Is Easier Than Typing: Voice Commands and Google Glass
Larry Page opened the call by reiterating the basic mission statement of Google, as represented by Google Now: “Our goal is to get you the right information at just the right time … without you having to ask first.” And what’s the right time? Instantly, if not yesterday. One of the ways that Google is trying to get
ads “answers” to you faster is by aggressively pursuing the world of voice commands. “Voice commands are going to be increasingly important,” Page said. “It is much less hassle to talk than type.”
With voice recognition technology in mobile devices – including phones, tablets and Google Glass devices – Google is hoping to shorten the time between question (the thought in your brain) and answer, by creating environments with “no typing needed.”
“In the future, we'll all be amazed that computing involved fishing in pockets and purses,” Page said. Pulling your phone out of your pocket? Typing a query into a search box? What a waste of time! In the future we’ll be way too lazy for that.
Faster Is Better: The Real Reason for Google Fiber
Another venture that got a lot of air time on the earnings call was Google Fiber, Google’s foray into providing high-speed Internet service at speeds up to 100 times faster than typical broadband. It’s not the first time Google has gotten into a business line that is barely related to its core search product – Larry Page himself cited Gmail as a Google project that was way outside its core strengths when they launched it.
But, Page said, Google pursues these crazy speculative projects because “incremental improvements are guaranteed to be obsolete over time, especially in technology.” Companies that only incrementally improve a single technology tend to eventually be replaced by more radical innovations made by other, newer companies. Google is trying to bet against that kind of obsolescence by entering new spaces where there is little competition.
But wait – so, why fiber? The competition there is very entrenched. CFO Patrick Pichette seemed to reveal why they are pursuing the Google Fiber project on Thursday’s earnings call:
Speed matters today. When you wait for 3 seconds to get your YouTube video today with your current provider, that is a terrible answer. And we think that fiber, and the services we offer in Kansas City today actually goes a long way to solving a lot of today’s frustrations, independent of tomorrow’s.
Load times are Google’s problem right now, and in order to keep growing revenues, Google needs to bet on a future where its content and the accompanying advertisements load very fast, because that is what its increasingly impatient user base demands. Google doesn’t want to have to depend on third-party Internet service providers to deliver its offerings. So it’s stepping in to ensure that Internet speeds are as fast as possible. (As AJ Kohn pointed out earlier this year, increasing Internet use is Google’s master plan.)
Self-Driving Cars: K.I.T.T. in Real Life
Then, of course, we have the specter of the driverless car. The point is safety – get drunk at the bar? Your car is your designated driver! But you can’t deny that being chauffeured by your own car will also make your life much easier. No more pesky navigating, steering, or checking of mirrors. You can just sit back, enjoy the ride and play with your phone – maybe check Google+?
Automatic transmissions were one step toward making driving easier, and some people prefer a standard transmission precisely because they prefer that greater sense of control. As always, greater ease of use tends to be coupled with loss of control. You can bet those folks aren’t lining up for the beta on the Google car.
Unbreakable Phones That Don’t Need Charging?
There was also a weird aside from Larry Page about how, when it comes to mobile, “battery life is a challenge for most people – you shouldn’t need to carry a charger around with you to make it through the day.” He added, “And when you drop your phone, it shouldn’t shatter.” Charging your phone? Replacing it when you break it? Annoying inconveniences! Sure, nobody likes doing that stuff. So is Google developing an unbreakable phone with superpowered battery life? Sign me up.
Enhanced Campaigns, Making Advertising "Really Simple"
As Google’s main cash cow, AdWords needs to adapt to an ever lazier user base as well. Speaking of Google Play, Larry Page said “It’s really important that our products work seamlessly, whatever device you are using at the moment.” He then transitioned into talking about AdWords:
In the same way, we need to make advertising across devices really simple for our customers. With separate campaigns for desktop and mobile, this makes arduous work for advertisers and agencies, which means mobile opportunities often get missed. So in February, we launched Enhanced Campaigns, a significant upgrade to AdWords. Our goal is simple: to enable advertisers to focus on their audience and their message while we dynamically adapt their campaigns across multiple devices.
Again, the story is fast and easy. The vast majority of advertisers don’t want to deal with the extra work of setting up multiple campaigns for different devices and environments, even if separate campaigns give you finer tuning and more control. So Google is catering more to the lowest common denominator than to its power users on the more advanced end of its user base. Similar to how WYSIWYG’s make web publishing more accessible because you don’t have to know HTML, Enhanced Campaigns make AdWords easier for people who don’t have the expertise to handle multiple, hyper-targeted PPC campaigns.
The Future of Google: Yea or Nay?
Do you like the direction Google is moving in, making everything easier and faster? Or are you more the old-fashioned type, preferring to take things slow?