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Google’s search generative experience and its AI strategy

The vendor upgrades SGE with new definition and code features. The search experience updates dispel earlier concerns about the tech giant's search business.

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Google's updates to its Search Generative Experience product reflects both its search and generative AI strategy. The technology giant introduced the AI-powered search experience system, dubbed SGE, in May. Previously Google updated SGE with multimedia features.

The most recent SGE updates, introduced on Aug. 15, include a feature that lets users see definitions within AI-generated responses. This feature lets users hover over certain words to preview definitions and see diagrams or images related to the topic.

SGE can also help programmers understand and debug generated code. The new updates color codes segments of codes in overviews with syntax highlighting.

Also this week, Google launched its "SGE while browsing" app to help users navigate information online and find what they're looking for faster.

The app is now available on Android and iOS and will soon be available on Google Chrome.

Google's search business

Google's rapid SGE evolution comes after many speculated earlier this year that rival Microsoft's incorporation of ChatGPT into Bing threatened the tech giant's search business.

"For Google, AI is an existential survival issue," Nemertes founder and analyst Johna Till Johnson noted in an interview with TechTarget at the time. "If 'Google it' becomes 'ChatGPT it,' Google's ad revenue will disappear, and the company will implode."

While Forrester Research analyst Rowan Curran chose not to comment on whether Google's search business is still threatened, he said online search still has a market with a long outlook.

"I don't think that is going to change anytime soon," he said.

Moreover, some observers think Google has, perhaps, long known what it will do regarding upgrading search with generative AI technology despite OpenAI being first to release a major generative AI system, ChatGPT, last November

"The reality in all of this is that Google has the advantage in figuring out what is next in search," wrote Mark Beccue, research director for the Futurum Group, in an Aug. 11 blog post. "They are not asleep at the wheel. Search is the company's top priority."

Even so, SGE is not only about Google's search strategy.

Google's generative AI strategy

"There's a whole lot more to this than just the search experience," Curran said. "It's just part of their larger strategy in generative AI."

There's a whole lot more to this than just the search experience.
Rowan CurranAnalyst, Forrester Research

This is particularly the case because of Google's recent moves, such as introducing the Generative AI App Builder and Model Garden. Google Cloud's Generative AI App Builder is aimed at making it simple for developers to create digital assistants. Model Garden is an environment that lets users search, discover and interact with Google's foundation model.

Google's recent additions to SGE are aimed at the consumer market rather than enterprises, Curran said. However, Google could also take Microsoft's approach of introducing an enterprise-secure version of Bing Chat.

"I think it's important again to keep SGE and the public-facing commercial search experience separate from what they're doing in the enterprise, which is still a significant player," Curran said.

A different race

Furthermore, there is now more clarification in the market regarding what started as a generative AI race at the beginning of the year.

Now the market is at the point at which multiple companies are experimenting with ways to deliver search experiences in a generative AI world, Curran said.

For example, Bing Chat is different from SGE. While Bing Chat uses a conversational experience, the other uses contexts to respond to queries.

"One is not necessarily better than the other," Curran said. "With any new technology or any new development, oftentimes in the beginning, there's a number of different experiments in different directions. And that's what we're starting to see right now."

Google has also reportedly been working on AI tools that will perform tasks such as giving life advice and ideas, giving event planning instructions and providing tutoring on various topics. The project is with an outside vendor, Scale AI, which has tested the capabilities with experts in different fields, according to The New York Times.

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