Hello Allo – Google’s new messaging app

So this morning at Google’s annual developer conference called IO, a new messaging product called Allo was introduced. Allo integrates Google services like YouTube, Maps, and Search, and will serve up “smart replies” and let users of the app chat with a new virtual assistant. The app aims to bring together all of Google’s latest research in artificial intelligence, machine learning, voice recognition, and natural language processing.

This is in line with what Facebook launched few weeks back where “bots” inside it’s WhatsApp and Messenger messages can intelligently invoke activities such as ordering an Uber car or booking an Airbnb room. This creates an interesting challenge for Apple, as such activities will bypass the “purpose” apps in the Apple’s App Store (a source of great revenue).

Google has another product called Google Hangout which overlaps with Allo. For now Google maintains the dual strategy of keeping both products since they appeal to different audiences. Google Hangout is aimed at enterprise users whereas Allo appeals to the consumers. Google also announced another group messaging app called Spaces.

Business Insider reported, “For one, Hangouts is tied to Google’s enterprise For Work products that’s aimed at business customers, and which includes Gmail and Docs, and is available on desktop. Allo, by contrast, is mobile only, doesn’t require a Gmail account, and is focused on the power of artificial intelligence. Right now, Allo users can chat with Google’s new virtual assistant in the app, but the company also showed off an integration with OpenTable, for booking restaurants. And hinted that it plans to be very open, while not rushing into anything.”

Still it’s tough not to interpret the advent of Allo as a signal that Hangouts’ best days are behind it. After all, unless you are already using Hangouts to talk to coworkers or because you need to communicate on a desktop PC, you’re probably more likely to opt for the new amped up experience and technology that Allo offers.

In my good old days at IBM, we ended up with two database products on the mainframe, and our marketing spin was that IBM had a dual-database strategy. Google’s trio of different chat apps might not be so crazy after all, when you consider that rival Facebook has both Messenger and WhatsApp.

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