Google no longer wants to be seen as strictly a search engine and house for all the worlds information. They want to also be seen as a hardware company. Stop me if you have heard this before *cough* Microsoft *cough* but maybe Google can do what the big M failed to do.
With the announcement of several new and updated devices on the 4th of October, Google is really looking for new ways to get people an exclusive path to the information and services Google provides. At the forefront, again this year, is the Google Assistant. Google answer to Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa services. While in my experience the Google Assistant is the most helpful/useful, we are a far cry from the easy natural language searches and queries like they have on Star Trek.
That is where I would like to see this “AI” services get to, not just taking the words I say and turning them into a search query, but actually acting on what I am asking. While Google Assistant does handle simple tasks, like setting timers or pulling up videos on Youtube, it does lack in other items that I would like. For example, I would like for it to be able to open an app and perform a task without me needing to actually interact with my device. That will require 3rd party developers to integrate the service with their apps. This is a big ask for a lot of developers.
So what is Assistant getting baked into? Well for the home it is being integrated into the new version of Google Home, and the new Google Home Mini and Google Home Max. Smart speakers that work a lot like Amazon Alexa speakers. The assistant works with these devices to allow you to set timers, look up information, play your music and control your smart home devices, like the Nest Thermostat. There is not a lot of shopping integration like Alexa, but then, Google doesn’t really have a storefront behind its device. Alexa’s sole purpose is to make it easy for you to buy things on Amazon.
The highlights of the show were the Google Pixel 2 set of phones, in 5 inch and 5.8 inch (XL) flavors, just like last year. The phone sport new screen designs and materials. The camera has been improved and the processors are the latest from Qualcomm. The phones still respond to the “Ok, Google” wake command but you can now also squeeze the phone to start an Assistant session.
The product they announced that I am most excited about is the new Google Pixelbook, which is a Chromebook with a dedicated button on the keyboard for the Assistant. Think of it like the Window’s key we are all pretty used to by now. The Pixelbook will also be the most powerful Chromebook ever built. Packing quality materials like Aluminum and Glass for the chassis and a UHD screen. Coming in at 12.8 inches it is in line with a MacBook Pro. Even in price. The base model Pixelbook will set you back $999 for a Core i5 processor with 8gb of RAM and a 128gb Solid State Hard Drive. That’s a lot of overkill for a Chromebook. Those stats do make the laptop future proof.
I personally run a Chromebook with 4gb of RAM and a 32gb drive and I don’t ever run into any performance issues, except, when I am editing a large number of my digital photos in the Lightroom app. This new Pixelbook should be able to hand those kinds of tasks with relative ease. For the average Chromebook buyer, or someone looking for an alternative to Windows or Mac laptops, the Pixelbook might be more than what’s needed. For $1000 you can buy a well spec’d Windows laptop or a low-end Mac Laptop and not have to deal with the few limitations that Chromebooks do have.
All in all, I liked what Google put out as far as new products and I am looking forward to maybe getting a chance to try them out soon. This tech right now is getting more and more ubiquitous so it is really hard to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. I don’t really see anything really groundbreaking on the horizon. I think it will be a few more years before we see another iPhone like product release that will completely change how we interact with our tech.