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A blog by Leon Oudejans

Google – our new digital butler

20 February 2015

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Remember the word PDA or Personal Digital Assistant? It used to be the predecessor of the smartphone. The term PDA was a little exaggerated compared to nowadays smartphones. The name smartphone is more of an understatement. A smartphone is more like a personal digital assistant to most people. Wherever you go or look, you will see heads bent down towards that device.

Another ginormous PDA is slowly and gradually evolving and it is called Google. Yes, Google. It is not a single device this time but mostly a large number of apps. I am convinced that it is Google’s aim to become our digital butler or PDA in daily life as it would probably make them indispensable.

Our daily life has a certain cycle: infotainment (information and entertainment), communication, transportation, work, home, eating / drinking, and sleeping. In most stages Google has rooted itself firmly or is rooting itself as we speak.

The Google search engine (1998) used to be a mere functionality in 3rd party browsers like MS Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Mounting pressure from MS resulted into a new web browser called Google Chrome (2008). The Google search engine is now the undisputed leader and through Google AdWords also the cash cow for developing everything else. YouTube was acquired by Google in 2006 and is rapidly replacing TV based entertainment amongst young people.

Gmail has become a vital part in our communication. Yesterday’s update of the Google Translate app makes it huge ambitions even more clear. Another communication tool is Google+, the FB copycat.

Google’s investments in transportation are phenomenal. It started with products called Google Earth (2005) and Google Maps (2005) and by using satellite images. The ability for zooming in was largely depending on the quality of those satellite images. Several years ago weird-looking vehicles suddenly entered the streets of many cities and a product called Google Street View (2007) emerged which enabled further zooming in. Google Maps has turned from a “simple” street map into a massive information database and will no doubt be the launching platform for Google’s newest product: the Google (driverless) Car (2012). Google Maps is like the brains of the Google (driverless) Car.

The future Google Glass (2013) may well connect the categories infotainment, communication and transportation. It might become a tool for mobile (!) navigation, browsing and also an online-realtime translation tool. In such case it would become indispensable in metropolitan multi-lingual areas.

The Google products for the work environment are still rather modest compared to their other products which is probably due to the inherent immense diversity of business software / products.

The Nest acquisition by Google demonstrates that Google is also interested in our home environment which makes perfect sense as more and more home appliances are enabling wifi and remote control.

The final (?) step will be the introduction of a human-like interface with all Google products and services and that has the ability to talk, think (through AI) and execute human commands. In that context, the acquisitions of several – if not many – robotics companies (e.g., Boston Dynamics) by Google makes perfect sense, again. The Google Personal Digital Assistant is emerging.

To me the strategic blueprint behind Google’s acquisitions is mind blowing. The formal absence of the blueprint and the enormous speed of their developments explain – to me – the continued lack of serious opposition to their plans. So far everything they do looks mostly unrelated. Smart guys.

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