Google’s 2023: Layoffs, pivots, and the AI supremacy race unleashed!

Google CEO Sundar Pichai addressed employees during the company’s final all-hands meeting of 2023, summarizing a challenging year for the tech giant. The year was defined by layoffs, the launch of the Gemini language model, and a renewed focus on AI. While Google had its successes, such as Google Cloud turning a profit and the release of new AI products, there were signs that morale within the company had been affected. An internal survey revealed that the overall average engagement rate was just 36%. The layoffs in particular had a negative impact, with some employees feeling that Google had become more focused on short-term shareholder interests rather than its original long-term vision.

Google’s advancements in AI, including breakthroughs such as the Transformer paper, have been significant. However, the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT posed a threat to Google’s core business. Google executives had initially downplayed the significance of ChatGPT, but quickly realized its potential impact. This led to a change in strategy, with Google determined to be “bold and responsible” in its AI endeavors.

The company rolled out ChatGPT competitor Bard in March, followed by the announcement that it would merge DeepMind and Brain to accelerate AI progress. Gemini, the large language model that replaced PaLM2, became the focus of Google DeepMind’s efforts. However, the company made layoffs in January, affecting around 6% of its workforce. This decision was seen by some as a departure from Google’s reputation as an employee-focused company.

Tensions within Google came to a head with a publicly released letter from an ex-employee, expressing concerns about the company’s culture. The letter struck a chord with many employees, leading to discussions about the future of the company and its moral compass. Despite the challenges, Google aims to turn its AI breakthroughs into successful products and maintain its momentum in 2024, but there is recognition that the company will need to reckon with the fallout from the previous year.