#ThatWas2018: Several highs, but lots to learn for Google
Google has evolved from a search platform into a full-fledged ecosystem. The company is still taking big strides into the future, but if we look at 2018, its journey has been one hell of a ride - full of highs and lows. It launched various cool gadgets, but also triggered some major controversies at the same time. Let's take a look at Google's year.
First up, Google introduced many cool gadgets
This year, Google introduced some cool gadgets, including the third generation of Pixel phones, Home Hub smart display, a new Chromecast, and an iPad challenging Pixel Slate. They all were pretty impressive, but Pixel 3 phones and Home Hub, in particular, stole the show. Pixels made their mark with extraordinary camera capabilities, while Home Hub's 'camera-less' but display-enhanced Google Assistant functions left us awestruck.
And, then it was Google and its software
Google is still working on the hardware segment, but software is something it owned in 2018. This year, we witnessed Google's human-sounding Duplex AI, which, when ready, would make calls on behalf of users to schedule appointments. Thanks to Duplex and other features, Assistant is smarter than ever and can perform multiple tasks on one command, even Gmail can now predict what you're typing.
Google Assistant's fancy capabilities
It is impossible to list out all the capabilities of Google Assistant, but the most notable ones of the year include fight delay prediction, automatic call-screening, politeness reward, song-identification, reminders, and face/location-based photo-searches. You can even change Assistant's voice into R&B star John Legend's.
Android Pie launched, existing products improved
Google introduced the latest iteration of its mobile OS, Android 9.0 Pie, with capabilities like flip to sssh, adaptive battery, and text magnification. Pie is available on a small number of devices, but just like Oreo and previous versions, we expect its adoption rate to further increase. Also, Google integrated its image-recognition app 'Lens' to non-Pixel devices and enhanced various services, including Chrome, Maps.
And, don't forget Project Stream
In October, Google's Cloud computing division also announced Project Stream, a web-based platform for streaming high-end video games. It is still at a nascent stage, but people in the US can already play the all-new Assassin's Creed Odyssey on it.
Now, coming to the lows, controversies
Despite succeeding with its products, Google has drawn flak in other segments of the technology industry. The first case stems from the controversial Chinese search engine project named Dragonfly. Google reportedly collected data on Chinese searches for developing the engine in accordance with the country's censorship rules. But, as the project was kept hidden, it drew severe backlash from employees, leading to its cancellation.
Protest against Project Maven
Nearly a dozen Google employees resigned while some 3,000 petitioned against Project Maven - a joint project (now shuttered) between Google and Pentagon. The project revolved around analyzing drone imagery, which raised concerns of employing technology for weaponizing AI and carrying out lethal attacks.
Google+ and its data leaks
Google+ was never a success, but in 2018, the platform exposed data of millions of users from bugs associated with its APIs. In March, it leaked profile-related data (names, emails, profile photos, gender) of some 500,000 users and now, in December, it confirmed another major exposure affecting over 52 million users of the service. Now, Google+ is in the process of shutting down.
Finally, the case of sexual harassment
Google has been accused of not handling cases of sexual harassment appropriately. In fact, just last month, thousands of employees staged a walkout demanding key changes in how sexual misconduct allegations are dealt with at the firm. The protest was prompted because Google paid Android creator Andy Rubin and other executives an exit package worth millions even though they faced sexual misconduct allegations.
Now, looking forward to 2019, hoping for Google's best
As we said, 2018 was full of ups and downs for Google. But we expect the company would learn from the past and won't repeat the same mistakes - while continuing the good work with its software and hardware products. Also, it should focus on bolstering the defenses of the Play Store and other services and take a stronger approach toward user privacy.