Given a war in Ukraine, inflation and a chaotic stock market, Google had a better 2022 than many tech companies. Sure, revenues may have plummeted and hiring may have slowed, but at least the company isn’t suffering the cataclysms that have rocked its tech rivals.
Jobs at Google seem downright quiet compared to work at Twitter, which new owner Elon Musk is tearing up to the posts to try to build Twitter 2.0. Facebook parent company Meta has laid off 11,000 employees after a risky bet on virtual reality technology. Netflix has downsized and is scrambling to increase subscriber numbers. Amazon, increasingly reliant on advertising instead of just e-commerce, has launched a major layoff that is expected to cut thousands of jobs. Even Apple, which has navigated the swamp of 2022 best, is struggling to keep iPhone 14 Pro models in stock.
A lousy 2022 also hit Google, but that hasn’t stopped the spread of Google’s “ambient computing” vision to bring digital technology into every corner of our lives. The company handles 92% of internet search traffic, Chrome accounts for 65% of browser usage, YouTube streams videos to 2.6 billion people every month, and Google’s Android software has 70% of the desktop computing market. mobile operations.
That doesn’t mean things went well. Google’s market muscle has led to pushback from regulators, lawsuits from tech rivals and complaints from employees. But the company has pursued its own ambitions, launching products and services like Multisearch, YouTube Shorts and the new Pixel Watch, Google’s Android alternative to Apple’s smartwatch dominance.
Pixel Watch boosts Google’s Android ecosystem
The Pixel Watch, which went on sale in October for $349, gives Android fans a better alternative for tracking fitness and comms. Wear OS, Google’s smartwatch software, had languished until Samsung adopted it in 2021 with the Galaxy Watch 4 and that year’s Galaxy Watch 5. But while some Galaxy Watch health features only work with Galaxy phones, the Pixel Watch works with any modern Android phone.
Google’s Apple Watch rival is helping bring the company closer to ecosystem parity. The search giant seems to have higher hopes for its hardware this year, as it’s reportedly placed its biggest ever order for the Pixel 7 launch alongside another major device that will land next year.
Stay tuned for the Pixel tablet in 2023 which will also serve as Google Home and possibly as a Pixel Fold phone to compete with Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4.
YouTube Shorts vs TikTok and other product developments
Gen Zers turn to TikTok more often than Google for certain searches, like where to eat or what to do in Portland. Google has noticed this and will start integrating more short videos into search.
YouTube Shorts, launched in 2020, now has 1.5 billion monthly viewers thanks to its prominence in the YouTube app. TikTok reported 1 billion monthly active users last year.
In other product developments:
Goodbye, Google Stadia
Not all products performed equally well.
With the economy struggling, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has opted to focus on areas it deems strongest and cut elsewhere. That’s why, three years after Stadia launched in 2019, the company canceled the video game streaming service, which was trying to do for games what Netflix was doing for video.
Stadia will expire in early 2023 and Google will refund all purchases.
Fines, Prosecutions and Government Control
Regulators have made 2022 costly for Google. The search giant, along with Meta, were fined €150 million and €90 million, respectively, in France for tracking users. As war raged in Ukraine, Russian courts fined Google $365 million for failing to remove banned content about the conflict. And the company agreed to a $391.5 million settlement with state attorneys general over its whereabouts practices. But these sanctions pale in comparison to a potential 4.1 billion euros fine in Europe for violating antitrust laws by forcing Android makers and mobile network operators to include Google’s suite of apps with their phones.
Google’s 2021 revenue of $257 billion dwarfs even the multi-billion dollar fines. Regulators could sting harder by demanding changes to its core search engine business.
Australia, responsive to publisher complaints about Google, passed a law requiring the search giant and Meta to pay content publishers. Canada introduced similar legislation earlier this year, citing the closure of 450 media outlets between 2008 and 2021 and the rise of disinformation. The company has, however, given publishers a boost by redesigning its homepage to further improve local news.
Some tech companies weren’t happy with Google’s power either. Fortnite’s lawsuit over Android’s Play Store for Android apps showed that Google paid other companies not to create competing app stores. Spotify and Tinder’s parent Match Group sued Google over Play Store payment demands in March. Apparently, the Play Store now allows Spotify and Bumble to use their own payment systems, paying considerably lower fees.
Google against its employees
The perks of being a “Googler” have faded in 2022. Employees get free lunches, nap rooms and access to the gym, plus pay, but not necessarily bidets in the bathrooms. The annual Google Geist survey showed a 12 percentage point drop in the number of employees who said their compensation was competitive. Layoffs could be on the horizon, with the company having identified the bottom 6% of performers in a potential prelude to a cut of around 10,000 employees.
Even without layoffs, there were problems. One employee, Ariel Koren, marketing manager for Google’s education products arm, has become a vocal opponent of Google’s sale of AI tools to Israelis. She said Google retaliated against her by abruptly forcing her to move to Brazil or risk losing her job.
Google also fired an AI researcher who questioned the company’s use of AI to create computer chips. Ariel Curley, a black employee, sued Google for having a “racist corporate culture”. Google also settled with six engineers it allegedly fired in retaliation for workplace activism.
In 2023, Google could cower further to deal with economic hardship and tougher milking of its advertising cash cows. But everyone from CEO Sundar Pichai to descendants can take comfort in not facing even bigger issues from rivals.