The Czar has spoken. After his anointment as Google's Senior Vice President of Products last October, which put him in charge of Chrome, Android, search, ad technology, Google+, Maps, social, commerce and infrastructure, Sundar had been operating in incognito mode, occasionally letting loose a few tidbits of information, like Inbox' deployment to Apps users. In a recent interview with Forbes, the man behind most of the things we talk about here on Android Police has answered some interesting questions regarding his vast portfolio of products, tried to put an end to a few concerns, and remained mum about other issues.
The most intriguing section of the interview starts when Google+ is addressed. Pichai is conscious of it being vastly misunderstood and inaccurately explained. He reiterated that the service itself has two separate entities: the common identity login and the stream. The former, which is often forgotten in the Google+ growth discussion, is as crucial as the latter and has been successful so far. The latter sees a lot of passionate users populating the platform (with many of you, our readers, being part of that).
Pichai, however, has no qualms that Google+ could do better, with one course of action being "next generation ideas" (things like Tablescape maybe?) and another the "focus on communications [Hangouts], photos and the Google+ stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area." While that doesn't necessarily mean that Photos and Google+ will be completely separate services from now on, it does forebode a certain level of dissociation that lines up with the rumor we heard last year of Google+ being broken up into various entities.
I know a lot of people who just don't want to go anywhere near Google+ Photos for the mere reason that it's coupled with Google+. When a photo service is part of a social network, the common concern is a lack of control over who sees what. Many people are still overwhelmed by Facebook's privacy settings, so having to worry about another platform that they don't understand is too much. If Photos was to become less entrenched in the Google+ network, it might help its adoption. The same could apply to Hangouts, would it allow new users without requiring a Google account — that is, obviously, a personal conjecture.
Forbes' interview touched on Google's plans to monetize its services across the board, starting with the Play Store. Pichai explained that while the new push for ads in the Play Store could have begun much earlier, the company wanted to make sure that the platform itself worked before adding ads to the mix. And ads are just one of many opportunities for revenue. There are various monetization options being worked on, internally and at "different cadences," so the company isn't very worried about its profitability in the long run.
Sundar also spoke about Google Wallet's past roadblocks across POS terminals, banks, and more, and revealed that "there's been a lot of progress in the last few months." With a "stay tuned" in tow, he all but confirmed the recent Android Pay rumors.
On Search, Android, and Chrome
Beside monetization, Pichai's top priorities are finding and serving information to people, and evolving the computing experience. Search obviously plays a large role in the first section, and we've seen the various improvements in the results thanks to the Knowledge Graph. Google Now is another core component, with its ability to serve information to the user before he or she asks for it. Pichai stated that computer science has progressed enough that he's confident that Google can understand your needs at a "deeper [and] more intelligent level."
As for computing, he's not just looking to improve the mobile experience, but to help Android and Chrome spread across screens and become more powerful and integral to our lives. (That explains his pride that Android isn't meant to serve one price segment of the market, but the "end-to-end spectrum.") No specific plans were shared there, but you could tell that the company obviously isn't just looking one or two years ahead, but a lot further down the road for opportunities to engrain itself more in the various ways we compute.
On competition in messaging, Apple, China, smart homes, and more
This is where things get a bit more vague. On the topic of messaging apps, Pichai stressed the importance and complications of balancing a platform that allows others to provide and advance their products (like WhatsApp) and building your own vertically integrated services (like Hangouts). He seemed happy in both fostering the competition and challenging it in parallel.
When asked about Apple, Pichai didn't appear too concerned by the company divorcing Google Search, nor by their recent growth on the high-end mobile market, especially amid a Samsung decline. As for China, he sees the opportunity there, reminds us of the Play Store already opening up merchant support to China, and speaks of the "chance to offer other services in the future," with no specific timeline. And finally, regarding the entry in the home segment, Pichai stated that progress is being made and that Android's support for the IoT is a crucial first step to more things down the road.
While there isn't a lot to glean from this interview, it helps you dive a bit inside the brain of one of Google's current leaders and guess the timeline and priority of many upcoming products — Pichai's language on the rumored Android Pay for example was a lot more specific and optimistic than smart homes. The topic of Larry Page's involvement in the company came up a few times too, and it looked like it's a marriage of perfect harmony between these two, with Page focusing on the broader strategy and Pichai handling the core products. You can see more details and the entire interview transcript in the source links below.