April 20, 2024

iMessage and WhatsApp are defeated by Google’s radical messages update

The battle between Google, Apple and Facebook on your smartphone is about to take an exciting new turn; If you’re an Android user, you can expect a big AI update that could very well change the way you use your device.

The tech giants behind the most popular smartphone app and operating system ecosystems have spent the last few years fighting for your messaging allegiance. And for good reason. There is no app as catchy as WhatsApp, iMessage or Google Messages. It is the center of your social network, you return to it continually throughout the day, every day.

Beyond the now-mandatory end-to-end encrypted messaging, it becomes more difficult to innovate. Just look at WhatsApp’s fitful monetization attempts or iMessage’s refocusing as a sharing hub or Google’s need to wrest control of RCS to even compete.

Meanwhile, the AI ​​space race continues apace. And like everything else, the main battleground will likely be the smartphones that rule our lives.

As useful as it may be to have Microsoft’s Co-pilot or Google’s Bard integrated into our productivity apps, as attractive as ChatGPT apps have become, they’re not in the spotlight like they need to be to drive the next wave. adoption and monetization. .

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And so, just as Samsung floated the idea of ​​a paywall to enable its own smartphone AI offerings, here comes Google with something much more innovative. How about incorporating your LLM directly into the messaging platform itself? An immediate user interface and user base. There are no new apps to install or complex productivity app extensions to master. This is ChatGPT-like simplicity pre-installed on all Android smartphones.

Think on the way. Google has spent two years pushing its Messages app as the default Android alternative to iMessage. This has included end-to-end encryption and RCS by default, and multiple feature releases. Now, with that done, comes an AI update that connects Messages users to Google, not just each other.

There were hints that Google might be considering adding Bard to its Messages platform last year, but nothing substantial. Now, after you have removed the latest pre-release APK, 9to5Google reports that “Bard is coming to Google Messages to ‘help you write messages, translate languages, identify images, and explore interests.'”

By decompiling the latest version of Google Messages, “we can see several lines of code within that hint at possible future features… Google may or may not include these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect.”

A complicated update to Google Messages that suddenly offers a showcase for the advertising ecosystem that underpins everything it does. That is what is meant by “exploration interests.” A whole new dimension in advertising-based AI search.

There are a number of obvious tasks that could be very simple: creating a recipe or writing a text for your boss about your impromptu quilt day are two of the examples given. But this only scratches the surface and unmasks something much more critical.

When ChatGPT launched, you’ll remember the Google Search obituaries that quickly appeared. The future of web search was not going to be browser bases. It would be interactive and talkative. Google’s fitful rush to free Bard continued.

But now think about the combination of an LLM chatbot and the interface you use to manage your key relationships. Searching for vacations, gifts, cars, houses, movies, and more takes on a whole new dimension. Because chances are you’re messaging about all of these things to someone as you research and debate your options.

This will not happen immediately. To start, you’ll play with AI text composition, image recognition, and simple information requests, but make no mistake, search powered by an AI chatbot is the prize (1,2). Models need more advanced structuring to turn chat into commerce-driven search requests, but the end will justify the means and investment.

While this seems to fulfill Google’s Allo intention that failed due to its inability to properly combine its assistant and messaging, with all the LLM advancements brought to the fore, Google is not the only one. Telegram has chatbot options, including the ChatGPT front-end, but for most everyday users, it’s a step beyond what’s comfortable.

The really interesting question is how Apple and WhatsApp will respond. Clearly, there are elements of Siri integration with iMessage, although they are limited to the messaging itself. It’s not a direct comparison, but it would be enabled quite easily. WhatsApp fits into the Meta camp, and with its latest NVIDIA buying spree, it’s clear that Meta will be able to bring something like this to WhatsApp quite easily.

Since Google leads the world’s largest and most valuable search and advertising ecosystem, it’s ready to go. Although Facebook has its own network, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are cross-platform and more widely adopted than Google Messages. This would bring a whole new perspective to Meta monetization.

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The problem, of course, is that when your LLM chatbot is powered by an advertising giant, you risk a limited and far from independent experience: a Google search window without the immediate option to scan beyond the search results. advertiser.

But the alternative is subscription charges similar to Samsung or ChatGPT for AI features and services. And we know that users will sacrifice a lot of privacy for “free.” AI in messaging will enable the same business model that is behind search and most other services. Advertisers will pay to communicate with you, the services will be free.

This year promises a radical change in the messaging landscape, with the long-awaited RCS adoption of iMessage, at least in some form of parallel execution configuration, and WhatsApp taking advantage of the lack of end-to-end encryption between platforms. However, in all likelihood, the inclusion of LLM chatbots in mainstream messengers promises an even bigger change and the next step in expanding messaging functionality.

However, a word of caution. Google Messages chats with Bard are not protected by end-to-end encryption and Google (being Google) will store your data and use it to improve its algorithms. As with other similar models, be careful what you order.

There is no word yet on the timing, but in all likelihood it is not far away. According to Bard himself, “Google has not yet announced an official release date for Bard in Google Messages, but it is expected to be available sometime in 2024.”

Watch this space.

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