While many other technology giants embrace the metaverse as the next frontier of growth, Alphabet Inc chief executive officer Sundar Pichai sees Google’s future in its oldest offering: Internet search.
“I feel fortunate our mission is timeless,” Pichai said in an interview in Singapore. “There’s more need to organize information than ever before.”
Earlier this month, Google parent Alphabet briefly crossed US$2 trillion in market value thanks to sales and profit growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked where the next US$1 trillion would come from, Pichai pointed to his company’s core service.
People will ask computers more questions with voice and “multimodal experiences,” he said. “Being able to adapt to all that and evolve search will continue to be the biggest opportunity.”
Since taking over Google in 2015, Pichai has pushed the company deeper into cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), while facing an increase in regulatory scrutiny.
In the interview, Pichai ticked off Google’s key growth businesses — cloud, the YouTube video service and its app store — and said AI investments were “underlying” each of them.
The India-born CEO also said he expects that more of Google’s products would be developed and tested in Asia first, before spreading across the globe.
Not in China, though.
After icing plans to bring search to China in 2018, following an employee uproar, Google has kept most of its services out of the nation.
“I don’t see that changing,” Pichai said.
However, he does not share other Silicon Valley executives’ dim view of China’s tech advances.
Pichai acknowledged that Google is “neck to neck” with Chinese companies in AI and quantum computing, but argued that the US and China have room to collaborate in areas such as climate change and AI safety.
Some of Google’s largest peers, such as Microsoft Corp and Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc, have pitched their futures around the virtual worlds of the metaverse.
Google has taken several approaches at virtual and augmented reality products, with limited success.
Years ago, its first attempt, the Google Glass headgear, flopped.
Google recently placed these efforts in a new division reporting to Pichai, although he did not provide specifics about the strategy.
“I’ve always been excited about the future of immersive computing,” he said. “This doesn’t belong to any company. This is the evolution of the Internet.”
Promoters of the metaverse often talk about the potential to build in new technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
Aside from some cloud partnerships, Google has largely steered clear of this part of the industry.
Pichai said he does not own any cryptocurrency.
“I wish I did,” he said. “I’ve dabbled in it, you know, in and out.”
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