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At this stage, Google’s generative AI features are free because they’re in beta and because we’re at the phase where all these companies want people to use their products over those of competitors.
Looking beyond, I’m sure some of the features we have today will end up being paid, if only because AI is computationally expensive to run.
In terms of what will be free, I think the Search Generative Experience (SGE) is the most obvious candidate, given that paid search engines aren’t viable and ads can subsidize the cost.
I think it will be the same for Bard — or whatever its final state ends up being — though the idea of functionality tiers exists, as seen with ChatGPT.
[Tangent: Bard is officially referred to as “an AI experiment by Google.” That made a great deal of sense at launch, but I’m starting to wonder if it will be sticking around. I can very clearly see Google giving “Bard” a new name – maybe it’s rolled into Assistant, which gets a web presence in the process – but the underpinnings of what’s being built out, especially third-party integrations, seem too specific and product-like to just be thrown out.]
With Magic Eraser already available as a paid feature on non-Pixel devices, Magic Editor going down the same route is very obvious. Then there’s Magic Compose in Google Messages. After using it for a week or so, I think it’s fun but not critical. The same could be said of the upcoming gen AI wallpapers on Pixel phones. The justification for both could be that it supports the underlying product – Magic Compose improves RCS, just as AI wallpapers enhance Pixel devices.
Moving on to Workspace, I think mass market features like “Help me write” in Gmail and Docs have to be free from a competitive standpoint. However, tiering could apply here by making the Sidekick panel a premium feature. Other generative AI features, like table creation and data organization in Sheets and image generation in Slides and Meet (for backgrounds), might be locked, given their more advanced nature.
Whatever the breakdown, putting the more premium features behind Google One makes the most sense. If it’s bundled with Google One and extra storage, a very straightforward and obvious proposition, it just becomes a value add. Outside of Workspace, I don’t think Google will have much luck bundling AI features as their own subscription or a per-app unlock.
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