In recent weeks, reports have emerged detailing Google’s ongoing initiatives to streamline its operations and trim expenses, resulting in increased layoffs and the discontinuation of specific features within the widely used Google Assistant platform.
According to The New York Times, Google has executed layoffs across diverse departments, including core engineering, Google Assistant, and the hardware division. The majority of the cuts in the hardware sector are reported to have impacted a team focused on augmented reality (AR) technologies. These layoffs are part of a broader cost-cutting strategy aimed at saving $5 billion in expenses over the next two years.
In conjunction with the layoffs, Google has announced the discontinuation of several features within the Google Assistant platform. Notably, the messaging feature, enabling users to send voice messages to other devices within their family group, will no longer send notifications across the internet to Android and iOS devices, although audio messages will still play on local network speakers. Starting January 26th, users who activate any of the 17 Assistant features being removed will be notified that it’s being discontinued, with most features departing for good on February 26th. The company is also modifying the functionality of the microphone in the Google app and Pixel Search bar. However, rest assured that you can still easily reach the Assistant through subtle shortcuts, like uttering “Hey Google”, holding down the home button, or just swiping from the bottom corners.
Google attributes the layoffs and feature discontinuations to its overarching strategy of concentrating on the most promising areas of growth. The company reportedly perceives its AR efforts as not yielding the desired results, and certain Google Assistant features are believed to be underutilized by a significant portion of users.
In my own experience, I’ve seen a decrease in my satisfaction with Google Assistant; it appears to be glitch-prone, slow, or uncertain, diminishing its appeal. I now find myself leaning more towards Google Search and using voice commands for searches, rather than relying on Google Assistant. While I understand the rationale behind discontinuing certain features, as I never used them myself, the impending changes may prove disruptive and frustrating for users who have grown accustomed to these soon-to-be-removed functionalities.