We are at a "seminal" moment in the history of computing according to Google. "It's clear to me that we are evolving from a mobile-first to an AI-first world," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at the launch of its new Pixel smartphones.
Google has been at the heart of the last two major shifts in computing. When the web revolution happened in the mid–1990s, it was the Google homepage which would become the face of the world wide web. Then, a decade ago, Google was at the centre of the smartphone revolution with Android, which made computing truly mobile.
Now, it is positioning itself at the heart of the next big shift in computing – artificial intelligence.
At the feature-packed San Francisco event on Tuesday, Pichai reinforced the idea that Google is at heart an AI company which is key as the idea of how we define computing changes.
"Computing will be universally available, it will be everywhere in the context of the user's daily life," Pichai said. "People will be able to interact with it naturally and seamlessly than ever before. And above all else it will be intelligent."
While Google may like to tell everyone it is an AI company, fundamentally it is still an advertising company at heart, but by leveraging the huge investment it has made in AI — and continues to do so — it will be able to make sure it continues to offer better services and of course, sell better ads.
"The same deep learning and user profiling used to create smarter services helps advertising to be aimed more accurately, increasing value to advertisers, and driving Google's revenues," Ian Fogg, a mobile and telecoms analyst with IHS Markit told IBTimes UK.
Can Google outsmart the competition?
The Pixel is the first smartphone to come with Google's AI-powered Assistant baked in. Already available through the company's new messaging app Allo, the difference here is that Assistant can monitor everything you do and provide more contextually aware responses and suggestions, as well as tapping into Google's knowledge graph and the 70 billion facts it contains. All this makes Assistant potentially much more powerful than Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa or Microsoft's Cortana.
While the smartphone is most people's main computing device, with them 24/7, it is not the only computing device people interact with and as the world becomes more connected, Google wants to put its Assistant everywhere and deliver on its goal "to build a personal Google for each and every user."
This is why Google Home, the smart, voice-activated speaker which can answer questions, control music, order food and even turn on and off your lights, is such a vital product for Google's AI future.
While it is not available at launch in the UK, in the US it is priced at $50 less than the Amazon Echo, the product it most closely resembles and the one it is seeking to dominate.
Changing the way we interact with technology forever
By putting Assistant at the heart of everything you do at home, Google is hoping that as people become increasingly comfortable with interacting with computers using their voices, the company will soon have an vital role to play not only on your desktop, laptop and smartphone, but also the mundane everyday tasks you carry out at home.
"It absolutely makes sense for Google to go big on AI and its Assistant," Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw Research said. "This is stuff that Google is already really good at, and a product like Home seems like a great place for the Google Assistant to shine. The focus here, though, should be on providing usable features everywhere, not just in Google-owned hardware."
To that end Google will launch the Actions for Google SDK in December, which will allow developers to hook into Assistant to control other devices in the home – everything from your washing machine to your door locks – and even let services carry out two-way conversations with users.
While there was no mention of Android Wear on Tuesday, the company's smartwatch operating system, you can be sure that when the next version of that is launched next year, Google Assistant will be baked in, available at the flick of a wrist.
Think of every other hardware pie Google has a finger in — self-driving cars, smart thermostats, Wi-Fi routers, smart cameras, Google Glass and the myriad of "moonshot" products the company is working on — and you get some sense of the scale of how Assistant could help Google dominate computing for the next decade, just like it has on the web and mobile for the last 20 years.