Did You Launch First?

Google is backed into a corner right now with artificial intelligence.

The tech chamber of the internet already assumed this was true. Google is a “build in public” type of company. This means exactly how it sounds, they update the public on their progress in building a product.

Before the past 3 months, there wasn’t a peep out of Google about AI.

Artificial intelligence has taken over the tech storyline. After OpenAI released ChatGPT 3.5, it was the fastest-growing consumer application in history. It took ChatGPT two months to reach 100 million monthly active users.

TikTok reached 100 monthly active users in nine months, and Instagram worked for 2.5 years before reaching that goal.

The explosion of ChatGPT caught Microsoft’s eye. Microsoft has been exploring ways to revive its search engine, Bing, for years now. So they invested $10 Billion in OpenAI. This gives Microsoft a 75% share of OpenAI’s profits until it makes back the money on investment.

The investment wasn’t even the best part of the deal. ChatGPT will now be integrated in Bing.

Pretty big bet right?

Microsoft announced the product is live “for desktop limited preview”. Which is a fancy way to say “for beta users”.

What started out as a snowball for Google turned into an avalanche they can’t contain.

The release of AI on Bing did something Google has yet to do. Release a working product. We’ve seen staged talks and whitepapers from Google, but not a working product.

On Monday, Google announced its AI chat bot by the name of “Bard”. Not sure about that name, but I’m not their product manager.

It’s first answer to the public didn’t go as planned. But Google is now at the submission of Bing and OpenAI.

The Cost of Being Second

When you take too long to launch, you’re at the submission of the first product.

You are now known as the competitor to the first. Instagram Reels are the competitor to TikTok and YouTube Shorts are the competitor to TikTok.

Google is facing a similar thing with Microsoft and ChatGPT. They are now the competitor.

“What happens if you take too long to launch: your product is defined by its relationship to whatever launched first.”

Paul Graham

The media headlines show this is happening already. “In a promotional video to show off Bard, a web search assistant to compete against Microsoft’s ChatGPT-enhanced Bing”.

Google is known for it’s slow product development. But at big companies like Google, the software development life cycle is long, boring, and a slow process. Big companies have to go through approval processes from everyone up the chain.

After the developer builds it, the lead engineers peer review, then the engineering manager does a code review, all while the QA team is testing for edge cases and bugs. After the QA and code reviews pass it goes up the chain to executives.

Who really knows what happens up there?

The cost of this process is gigantic. Especially from someone whose entire career was spent working at a small startup or small company.

Programmers hate this process, they just want to code and release good features. This executive, corporate chain of command not only makes everyone despise the acquirer, but makes everyone unproductive. Programmers want to work hard, what’s not to love about writing code at a computer for good money?

“Real artists ship”

Steve Jobs

Google launched too slow. Then Microsoft had them running around bouncing off the walls like your 90’s arcade pinball machine. It turned from “we have time to perfect this product” to “we have to launch this ASAP.”

This rapid rush caused more technical debt and costs to one of the biggest companies in the world. Now they have a botched product that isn’t even released.

Google has a history of doing this. Last time this happened, Amazon was their competitor. Google Assistant and Home never took off like Alexa and Echo did.

AI is evolving at a compounding rate. Let’s see what Google’s plan is for the new tech changing our world.

Win or lose, they are now second.

Published on: January 7, 2024