Google’s great AI push

When it rains, it pours. At least when it comes to tech layoffs, with Google-parent Alphabet becoming the most recent big name to announce a major headcount reduction. 

What happened: Alphabet announced its largest-ever round of layoffs, with plans to axe 12,000 employees (~6% of its workforce) as the company looks to protect its bottom line in the face of an economic downturn and refocus on its new prerogative: Artificial intelligence. 

  • Recruiters, corporate staff, and engineering and product teams will be affected, with CEO Sundar Pichai saying the company “hired for a different economic reality” and now plans to “direct our talent and capital to our highest priorities.”

Why it matters: The conditions squeezing the entire tech sector have forced Google to hyper-focus on what it sees as its most vital mission: Conquering the booming AI space. Per The New York Times, Google plans to unveil 20 distinct AI products sometime this year, including a chatbot-enhanced version of Google Search. 

  • Though Google played it cool about the threat of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, it’s clear the company now sees it as an imminent threat and is taking action, including seeking the guidance of founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who left the company in 2019.
  • The company is also speeding up approval review processes and preparing to take on more risk for launching AI products, rebuffing previous concerns about reputation

Bottom line: If it wasn’t already blindingly clear that 2023 is the year the tech world tries to slap AI into everything and anything, Google’s very public shift in priorities has confirmed it.