Beyond smartphones: Google CEO says AI is the next big thing

Sundar Pichai

Artificial intelligence is nothing new at Google, but today we learned just how big a role top boss Sundar Pichai sees AI playing in our future.

Answering an analyst query on Google-parent company Alphabet's Q1 2016 earnings call about how the company is leading innovation, rather than simply adapting to changes in technology, Pichai talked about his role in projecting where Alphabet is going in the next 10 years.

He gave a shout out to VR as the hot new platform, and then wrapped up his comments by saying: "In the long run, I think we will evolve in computing from a mobile-first world to an AI-first world."

Earlier in the call he cited Google's DeepMind AlphaGo super computer defeating a human champion as an extraordinary achievement. He also said the company is investing in AI and machine learning, areas that are taking off and beginning to bear real-world benefits.

So, bots?

Other than these examples, Pichai offered no details about what an AI-first world looks like, though with the recent surge in bots, it's possible he's hinting that Google will join the chatbot craze.

It already has a leg up with Google Now, so further flushing out the platform and allowing businesses and other services to build task-specific bots for users seems like a natural next step.

Of course, bots need somewhere to live, so while mobile may take a backseat to AI, smartphones won't be going away, at least not any time soon.

With Google IO 2016 just around the corner, we may hear about Google's bots (or other AI ambitions) then.


As far as Alphabet's other financial results, the company pulled in over $20 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2016.

It's a growth of 17% from the year previous, due largely to mobile search, but the result still missed investor expectations. Alphabet stock took a nosedive in after-hours trading.

One of the key insights to pull from the earnings report is that the company's Other Bets category (think self-driving cars and Google Fiber) lost a lot of money - $802 million, up from $633 million in the same quarter last year - but also drew in $166 million, up from $80 million.

Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat cited building out Google Fiber as the main money sucker inside Other Bets, but the fact that the category's revenue is growing faster than its losses is a sign Google won't abandon these projects, even if investors murmur that it should.

Along with AI, Google is looking to the cloud as another area of growth for its business, so look for greater focus on this element of its B2B business moving forward.

Despite a rash of negative stories about it lately, Porat put on a happy face talking about Nest, saying it leads the still-young category in sales. Neither she nor the earnings report offered up any revenue or loss specifics, however, which the analyst/investor world has been clamoring for.

Finally, Pichai was particularly keen to talk up YouTube and YouTube Red, its subscription-based video service.

He said Red has been "really well received" and that the company plans to add more original content to it this year.

Pichai also described YouTube as a moonshot once, likely to squash squirmy investor fears that the ones it's currently working on won't ever yield boo koo bucks.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.