I'VE BROKEN with tradition this year and not immediately posted a knee-jerk analysis of Google I/O, and we've covered off most of the news elsewhere, so this week, instead of the weekly Google Updates (back next Friday!), I want to talk about a mounting concern I have. It's not just Google, but Google is the company that I follow the most closely (at least without spitting blood and teeth) and yet is easily the worst offender.
So. I'm going to come out and say it. I watched the I/O keynote with varying degrees of amusement and boredom. I mean take that new AI TPU for data centres. That could change the world. Wow. the boredom came from the most used phrase of the speech.
No, not "super excited" (I counted six of those, which is still far too many). Not "AI first" though that ran through it like "Margate" through a phallic lump of boiled sugar.
The phrase was "rolling out in the US first with other countries being added later" (or words to that effect). Basically, it was two hours of stuff that I CAN'T HAVE.
And this is what worries me. Because here in the UK, which generally gets Google's newest products separately, we're still lagging way behind the US in terms of product releases and updates, so these announcements push us back even further.
Google Home is a good example. When the list of partners that Google Home is already working with was flashed up, I hardly recognised a single logo. They were all American.
As it is, Google Home in the UK lags way behind Amazon Alexa in terms of integration with my smart home. At the moment, it can control three light bulbs and a plug. Alexa can do everything.
The ability to make calls. Great. US only. And I'm not holding my breath because Google Voice is still not available here after the better part of a decade. No use to us whatsoever.
YouTube TV. Very exciting. The idea of being able to get all your content from Google is a great idea. But at the moment, my Android TV is still stuck on Marshmallow, and its buggy as heck. The US firmware is out for Nougat, but it won't work.
Come to think of it - we don't have YouTube Red or Youtube Music yet. We are, quite simply getting way behind. And it looks set to get worse.
Because Google is US-based, they risk losing sight of just how left behind the rest of the world is getting. Their ideas seem to bounce off innovation from what has gone before - they are evolving platforms to include more AI, and the longer this goes on, the more we get stuck in a state of Arrested Development.
And we're the lucky ones, comparatively. Because we speak something that pertains to be the same language (apart from the over use of the phrase ‘super-excited' in disproportion to the actual level of excitement likely to ensue) we get stuff relatively quickly. And if we're feeling the slowdown, imagine what it's like to be Norwegian?
But my point is this - there's a real danger that we will end up in a situation where America has this joined up ecosystem from the big tech companies - you can already see the pieces starting to come together with Google. The Google Lens functionality looks great. Imagine being able to ask your Google Assistant what some foreign text is and then get it to show you pictures, or take action about it? Brilliant.
Meanwhile, here in London, we're still waving Google Goggles (which was very impressive at the time) at St Paul's Cathedral and having it tell us its the top of a Mattessons Pork Sausage with a fork in it.
And yes, I know Google Lens is a series of pieces of software that plug in to existing technology but the main one of those is Google Assistant. I still don't have Google Assistant. It isn't available for my phone in British English. But that's fine. I'll just point my phone at some Jay-Z and have it tell me its a rare recording of Dylan Thomas reading WH Auden.
Again, it's important to say, we're the lucky ones. The great Tower of Babel that divides us all is becoming a barrier to the technology that unites us, and Google has a responsibility to remember that. It's not all about "coming to other countries later". This stuff is now so big, and so crucial that Google is becoming the first in an increasing number of companies to risk creating an AI fast lane and an AI slow lane. A smart home and a mildly-thought-provoking-bulb. A democratised communication platform and pot of Muller Light with a shoelace, but a flashing light on the side.
Google, and their like, hold the whole world in their hands. I hope they don't accidentally create a new world order by allowing it to turn into a world of digital haves and have-nots. If they do, it'll be an accident, but it won't be a happy one. µ
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