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Stay on Top of Tech Trends: Conference Highlights Progress

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May 17, 2018
Stay on Top of Tech Trends: Conference Highlights Progress
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There’s an info tech race underway and the competition could be fierce in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI). Google—owned by Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL)—entered the fray last week as it unveiled upgraded AI technology along with other product evolution at its Google I/O annual developer conference.

For investors, developer conferences can offer attendees a chance to see what new tools and updates might be coming down the pike. In Google’s case, as with many recent conferences from tech companies in the space, the fusion of AI and cloud computing is front and center.

“Tech companies, including Google, have seen their business models evolve,” said Shawn Cruz, Manager, Trader Strategy at TD Ameritrade. “For example, the move to embrace cloud-based computing. Conferences like these are a good way to see where Google is going with the cloud and other emerging technologies.”

Though the conference was chock-full of nifty new updates for Google products, there’s also a broader investor perspective to both the Google event and others like it, including Facebook’s (FB) earlier this month.

"Investors might want to keep watching AI developments from AMZN, FB, and GOOG and other firms in the technology space,” Cruz said. “In particular, digital assistant technology appears to be evolving and becoming more a part of peoples' daily lives."

In that sense, events like this can shine a quick spotlight for investors, potentially helping them determine which companies appear to be meeting customer needs in the space.

Google, Amazon, Facebook

FIGURE 1: CONFERENCE SEASON FOR FAANGS.

In the wake of technology conferences hosted by Facebook (FB) and Alphabet (GOOG) early this month, shares of GOOG (candlestick), FB (purple line), and Amazon (AMZN, blue line), have all been on the rise. Some of this might reflect on strong earnings, but there does seem to be growing investor excitement about the new technologies highlighted at the conferences, as well.

Artificial Intelligence In Spotlight

Google’s conference really revolved around AI, mostly through the lens of its digital Google Assistant technology. The company, like competitors, is under pressure to show it’s on the cutting edge with AI, analysts said. This way, it can appeal to developers, investors,  and partners (including other technology firms that might want to work with Google and its competitors) that the industry is fighting to attract.

“Artificial intelligence is becoming kind of like air or electricity,” said Scott Kessler, Director of Equity Research at research firm CFRA. “Over the next number of years it’s going to be kind of the element that helps run a lot of the technology that we’re all going to be utilizing more and more. Google wants to showcase related improvements and advances they’ve made with AI, and used Google Assistant as a keynote example at the conference.”

According to Kessler, AMZN is often acknowledged as the leader in personal digital assistant technology and has had a multi-year lead, while Apple (AAPL) hasn’t made as many advances in the space but might have a leg up because its Siri technology is available on more than one billion devices. Still, Kessler added, Google has a “pretty nice combination” with Google Assistant and Google Home (a voice-controlled speaker), and users have been able to download the Google Assistant technology to their mobile phones.

Google did highlight some upgrades to Google Assistant, including a more natural way to converse with it and an integration of Google Assistant into Google Maps that could allow users to have the assistant read messages to them while they drive. Google Assistant is also coming to Android, the company’s open-source mobile software platform.

Assistant Prolongs the Conversation

Standing in front of a large white board labeled “Available in 6 New Voices,” Google executives talked about improvements in Google Assistant, including new voices, a more natural interactive experience and a new feature called “Multiple Actions” that will allow a user to give more than one command at a time.

Like Facebook earlier in May, Google addressed privacy issues spinning around the industry. “There are very real and important questions being raised about the impact of these advances, and the role they will play in our lives,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said during his keynote speech. “We know the path ahead needs to be navigated carefully and deliberately. We feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right.”

The Facebook and Google conferences drew a lot of headlines and shares of both companies rallied as the conferences took place, but they’re arguably not making the same splash they once did. 

“It’s interesting to get a general sense of what these companies are working on and how they’re communicating and positioning themselves, but I don’t think for the most part the companies are making big impactful announcements at these kinds of gatherings as was the case even a couple years ago,” CFRA’s Kessler said. “They’re not as impactful from a news flow and investor perspective as they used to be.”

Other updates Google shared at the conference included improvements to Google News, Google Photos, Android, Maps, Duplex, and Waymo.

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