Commentary

What Analysts Will Be Watching For At Google's Big Event

Google is hosting a big event in San Francisco on Tuesday, which is expected to include some serious hardware announcements.

However, analysts appear to be divided on the implications of any such unveilings.

“Let’s be clear: Google is not turning into a hardware business,” according to Thomas Husson, VP and principal analyst, at Forrester Research. On the contrary, Google wants to showcase that it will continue to be a relevant platform to access information on whatever connected device consumers use moving forward,” Husson explains.

Search remains key to Google’s relevance, Husson believes. “Search is increasingly taking place in many more places, via many more devices and through new interfaces -- with a growing number of voice and visual requests.”

“To stay relevant for marketers in the long run, The Google Assistant is likely to be the driving force behind Google’s hardware moves,” Husson suggests. “The end game for Google is to embed its intelligent agent to power conversations into multiple vertically integrated services like Mail, Search or Maps and into multiple devices like the new Google Home or the new Pixel smartphones.”

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In other words, trying to popularize Allo as a standalone messaging app is waste of Google’s time.

To that end, “Google faces an uphill battle to succeed with both Google Home or Allo because it does not have a strong track record of selling much of anything direct to consumers at scale,” reasons Julie Ask, VP and principal analyst at Forrester.

“Google has a delivery business for local goods … and, it will definitely be interesting to watch if Google looks to use Amazon as a distribution channel,” Ask notes. “But Google also doesn’t have near the track record for mobile instant messaging that companies like Facebook and WeChat have.”

Furthermore, “Platforms like Allo become essential when they have hundreds of millions of daily active users,” according to Ask. “The year 2016 is late to be starting with 0.”

But isn’t the digital assistant marketplace nascent enough for Google get in the game?

Yes, but it’s not going to be easy, according to Fatemeh Khatibloo, another principal analyst at Forrester. “Deciding the business rules and data governance around a shared intelligent device is very different and much harder,” Khatibloo cautions.

Specifically, “The difference with this being an in-home device v. Google Now is the problem of householding,” Khatibloo notes. “If there are multiple users of Google Now in a home, Google will have to do a lot of work to prioritize, suppress, and manage how it makes recommendations.”

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