Google has made a fairly successful leap from powering a search engine to digitizing ancient texts to self-driving cars, but there are still a few more hardware tricks up the company’s sleeve, some of which will be unleashed this week at a tech event. Expected to make an appearance are new items from its smartphone division, some wifi-enabling gadgets, and of course, the long-awaited answer to Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s own Home speaker.
But as an insider look from CNET points out, this might only seem to be a hardware event. At its core–the entire heart of its purpose–Google is a software and search engine powerhouse. All of its hardware still points back to its focus on more intuitive searching, a stronger knowledge base for its machine learning efforts, and of course, its real money maker, better targeted advertising.
While Google’s hardware certainly points back in that direction, one of the real keys to this mindset is the company’s own admission that it had abandoned end-to-end encryption for its messenger app Allo. Much to the annoyance and protests from privacy and security advocates–Edward Snowden unleashed a tweet storm about it at launch–Google decided that its AI and machine learning efforts would be thwarted by not being able to learn from its customers. While that certainly angered those who felt that data security should trump data gathering, the company did have the courtesy to announce the decision instead of sneaking it in under the radar, essentially allowing users to make the choice to go elsewhere for messaging apps if e-to-e is that important to them.
This type of decision and the announcements from this week’s event could come back to haunt Google, though. With the conspiracy crowd already crowing that home-based personal assistants are “always listening” and gathering consumer information for future use, announcements that even their hardware are just a means of getting software into consumers’ lives might drive customers to companies that aren’t so focused on “listening in,” or at least aren’t openly admitting it.