Australia Markets closed

Google Assistant had a good CES

Brian Heater


I started writing about Google Assistant before I’d even fully unpacked. The company had posted up a week-long residency with a profile to rival any in Vegas that first week of January.

Celine Dion at Caesar’s, David Copperfield at the MGM Grand, Google at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The company wallpapered the Vegas monorail and plastered the words “Hey Google” on every rentable screen in town. Take that, Donny and Marie. 

That crazy booth in the Convention Center parking lot seemed like a terrible idea on Tuesday when the rains opened up and swallowed it whole — but a day later, when the lights went out on CES for a few hours, everyone came running to Google and its free donuts. Our own booth at the Sands, meanwhile, where a number of us were posted up for much of the week, was way too close to the giant Google gumball machine.

Every ten or so minutes, cheers erupted from the crowd as another eager tech industry type won a Home Mini, after dutifully waiting in line for an hour or so. And then, on my last night, when I thought I’d escaped the company’s presence for long enough to enjoy that Run The Jewels corporate gig, I walked out on the balcony of Brooklyn Bowl and spotted the same machine down below. The damn thing was everywhere.

Google’s CES 2018 presence was an act of sheer brute force — a consumer electronics blitzkrieg that some how managed to standout among the bright lights of America’s most stupidly garish city. The fact of the matter is that, even if the company hadn’t followed through on that promise, it would still have managed to capture plenty of headlines.

But Google delivered. After having virtually no presence at the show in past years, the company went from zero to 60. Practically no press conference or news release went by without some mention of Assistant. The company played its hand well at the show. There was no big Google press conference, and it didn’t release a single piece of its own hardware.

Instead, it harnessed the platforms of its highest profile tech partners — Sony, LG, Lenovo, Huawei and the like. At the latter’s press conference, an executive even came out on stage to run down the specifics of Assistant — though to be fair, perhaps Huawei was simply filling time in the wake of some last minute adjustments.

Assistant made it onto virtually every manner of hardware at the show, from TVs to refrigerators to electric bike wheels. And while the company went into the last holiday season with no direct competitor to the Echo Show, suddenly it had several, letting its hardware partners do all of the heavy lifting. From the looks of it, Amazon’s got something to be concerned about on that front — especially given the fact that the company went with the nuclear option a few months back, pulling YouTube from Amazon’s offering.

Amazon had a good show, too, albeit with a decidedly more subdued presence. There was no giant gumball machine or armies of employees in matching outfits screaming until the voices went hoarse, but the company handily sent along a list of Alexa announcements at the end of each show day. And the list is a solid one, particularly with the planned launch of Alexa on several Windows 10 PC — effectively eating into Cortana’s one stronghold.

Both companies’ respective assistants had a successful CES, but Google’s list of devices go a long way toward shrinking the gap between the two players — and take it even closer to its dream of device ubiquity. That positioning, coupled with the years of backend development that have coalesced behind Assistant should leave Amazon more than a little concerned about holding onto its place at the top of the heap.

  • Aust shares fall on US govt shutdown fears
    Finance
    AAP

    Aust shares fall on US govt shutdown fears

    The Australian share market has closed lower on concerns around a possible US government shutdown, while the Aussie dollar is trading at a four-month high. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index ended Friday down ...

  • RFG faces possible franchisee class action
    Finance
    AAP

    RFG faces possible franchisee class action

    Retail Food Group says it will vigorously defend itself against any class actions it may face, after its shares dropped further on the prospect of franchisees taking legal action. Legal firm Bannister Law, which is already looking at taking class action on behalf of RFG shareholders, says it has expanded

  • Finance
    AAP

    Stocks to watch

    Stocks to watch on the Australian stock exchange: RFG - RETAIL FOOD GROUP - down 11 cents, or 5.1 per cent, at $2.07 A law firm is investigating a possible class action against Donut King, Brumby's Bakery ...

  • Finance
    AAP

    The business week in numbers

    China's record gas gulping, RioTinto gets an extra per cent out of the Pilbara, Australia's 15-month record jobs run and a new record for Sydney Airport are among the newsworth numbers in the business ...

  • Tough times loom for TV after ad sugar hit
    Finance
    AAP

    Tough times loom for TV after ad sugar hit

    Advertising from the same sex marriage debate and the Queensland election has breathed temporary life back into the television advertising market but the headwinds for the industry haven't disappeared, a media analyst has warned. Morningstar analyst Brian Han says free-to-air ad revenue increased

  • Finance
    AAP

    Trade minister takes pulse on EU deal

    Trade Minister Steve Ciobo will sound out the political and business appetite for an Australia-European Union free trade agreement when he visits Hungary, France and Switzerland in coming days. In Budapest, Mr Ciobo will meet members of the Visegrad Group, comprising Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland

  • Finance
    AAP

    America Last? Trump losing on trade: EU

    The European Union's trade tsar has no idea what Donald Trump will tell his audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week, but she is clear what the EU's message to the US president will be. America is shooting itself in the foot by withdrawing from global leadership on trade, Cecilia

  • RFG faces possible franchisee legal action
    Finance
    AAP

    RFG faces possible franchisee legal action

    A law firm is investigating a possible class action against Donut King and Gloria Jean's parent company Retail Food Group on behalf of disgruntled franchisees. Bannister Law, which is already looking at taking class action on behalf of RFG shareholders, says it has expanded the scope of its probe

  • Finance
    AAP

    Next NQ cyclone a banana disease threat

    The next cyclone to hit north Queensland could have disastrous long-term consequences for Australia's biggest banana-producing region, potentially spreading a devastating crop disease that has reached the area. Australian Banana Growers Council (ABGC) director Leon Collins said a cyclone could spread

  • Aust shares lower but $A remains high
    Finance
    AAP

    Aust shares lower but $A remains high

    Australian shares have drifted marginally lower at midday, but the dollar remains high after cracking the 80 US cents mark for the first time in four months. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 0.09 ...

  • RFG faces possible action by franchisees
    Finance
    AAP

    RFG faces possible action by franchisees

    A law firm is investigating a possible class action against Donut King, Brumby's Bakery and Gloria Jean's parent company Retail Food Group on behalf of disgruntled franchisees. Bannister Law, which is already looking into taking a class action on behalf of shareholders of RFG, says it has expanded

  • Aust shares flat as $A passes 80 US cents
    Finance
    AAP

    Aust shares flat as $A passes 80 US cents

    Australian shares have opened flat while the Aussie dollar has cracked the 80 US cents mark for the first time in four months amid strong commodity prices, good Chinese economic data and continuing weakness in its US counterpart. "It's pretty clear that with ... better commodity prices we are

  • Finance
    AAP

    Merkel may join Trump clash at Davos

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering joining French President Emmanuel Macron at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week in what could turn into an epic clash of competing world views with US president Donald Trump. Merkel, who has been struggling to put together a government since a German

  • Atlassian deepens loss but boosts revenue
    Finance
    AAP

    Atlassian deepens loss but boosts revenue

    Software giant Atlassian has widened its second-quarter net loss, but has boosted revenue compared to a year ago. Net loss for the three months to December 31 was $US65.2 million ($A91.3 million), compared to $US1.7 million in the same quarter the previous year, due to a $US47.3 million write-down of

  • Wall St fell, but Aust shares open up
    Finance
    AAP

    Wall St fell, but Aust shares open up

    The Australian share market has opened modestly in the green, ignoring Wall Street's negativity with its previous strong rally running out of steam. At 1015 AEDT on Friday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 9.8 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 6,024.4, while the broader All Ordinaries index was

  • Finance
    AAP

    Davos discreetly pushes peace talks

    US president Donald Trump will hog the limelight at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos next week, but behind the scenes some of the world's leading diplomats will be working on some of humanity's knottiest conflicts. Trump is expected to arrive on January 25 and make a speech on January

  • Atlassian deepens debt, but boosts revenue
    Finance
    AAP

    Atlassian deepens debt, but boosts revenue

    Software giant Atlassian has widened its second-quarter net loss, but has boosted revenue compared to a year ago. Net loss for the three months to December 31 was $US65.2 million ($A91.3 million), compared to $US1.7 million in the same quarter the previous year, due to a $US47.3 million write-down of

  • Finance
    AAP

    Atlassian deepens debt, boosts revenue

    Software giant Atlassian has widened its second-quarter net loss, but has boosted revenue compared to a year ago. Net loss for the three months to December 31 was $US65.2 million ($A91.3 million), compared to $US1.7 million in the same quarter the previous year, due to a $US47.3 million write-down of

  • Finance
    AAP

    Aust shares shrug off Wall St, to open up

    The Australian share market looks set to open higher despite an uninspiring Wall Street session. At 0700 AEDT on Friday, the share price futures index was up 17 points, or 0.29 per cent, at 5,969. The ...

  • Finance
    AAP

    International markets roundup

    NEW YORK: Losses in healthcare and industrial stocks have paused Wall Street's fervent new year rally that has driven the blue-chip Dow index to its fastest ever 1,000 point rise. The S&P healthcare index ...

  • Higher $A knocking on door of US80 cents
    Finance
    AAP

    Higher $A knocking on door of US80 cents

    The Australian dollar is fractionally shy of 80 US cents, with the US dollar weakening ovenight amid fears of a possible federal government shutdown. At 0635 AEDT on Friday, the Australian dollar was worth ...

  • $16b Emirates deal throws lifeline to A380
    Finance
    AAP

    $16b Emirates deal throws lifeline to A380

    The Middle East's largest airline, Emirates, is purchasing 20 A380 aircraft with the option for 16 more in a deal worth $US16 billion ($A22 billion), throwing a lifeline to the European-made double-decker jumbo jets. Emirates said in a statement on Thursday the aircraft will be delivered to the

  • Finance
    AAP

    Trump mulls big fine over 'China theft'

    President Donald Trump says the United States is considering a big "fine" as part of a probe into China's alleged theft of intellectual property. In an interview with Reuters, Trump and his economic adviser Gary Cohn said China had forced US companies to transfer their intellectual property

  • Finance
    AAP

    China's economy grew by 6.9% in 2017

    The numbers beat economists' forecasts for the world's second largest economy and the Chinese government's own official growth target of 6.5 per cent. The economy expanded at a 6.7 per cent pace in 2016, its slowest pace in 26 years. "The national economy has maintained the momentum

  • BHP boosts H1 copper, energy coal output
    Finance
    AAP

    BHP boosts H1 copper, energy coal output

    BHP Billiton has maintained its full-year production guidance for most commodities including iron ore after reporting a first-half boost in production of copper and energy coal. The global miner lifted copper production by 17 per cent in the six months to December, compared to the prior first half,