Can Allo Compete With Facebook and Whatsapp?

Allo is Google’s new messaging app  and it launches today.

Today, Google hopes to reverse its messaging fortunes with the launch of Allo, a new app it revealed at its developer conference this spring.

 “Messaging is not a solved problem,” says Nick Fox, head of Google’s communications products business.

Google sees a “paradigm shift” happening in messaging, from sending simple texts to a world where people can “express themselves more fully and naturally,” he says.

Between WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Snapchat, and boring old text messages, smartphone users have no shortage of options for communicating. But Allo comes with a few differentiators that Google is hoping will lure users away from the existing options: it’s “smart,” meaning the app uses artificial intelligence to help you make decisions in group texts (“Where should we eat?”) and in one-on-one exchanges (“Is there a shoe repair place nearby?”), or to even speak on your behalf through suggested responses. There’s also a bunch of emojis, stickers, and ways to manipulate text size.

Allo’s success will hinge on whether its intelligent assistant works, and most importantly, whether people like it. Demos of the app show a virtual assistant butting into group text conversations to suggest restaurants, not unlike how Microsoft Word’s famous Clippy character might ask to help format your letter. But Fox says Google’s virtual assistant has resonated in beta tests because it’s subtle and helpful.

“In all cases, we never want the technology to get in the way of people having a conversation,” Fox says. “[The virtual assistant] is visible, but not intrusive.”

With Allo, Google has corrected the error of merging Hangouts and Gchat, instead building a separate video-calling app called Duo, which launched over the summer. Separating the apps will “allow them both to be great apps,” Fox says.

Moreover, Allo is tied to a user’s phone number, not their Google account. Fox believes Allo’s mobile focus and consumer-centric features will drive adoption of the app for personal use cases, while Gchat and Hangouts have been used more for business purposes.

When deciding whether to dive into a market, Google execs ask themselves, “Is the space really important, is there room for innovation, and do we think Google can do things that are uniquely better for the user?” Fox says. With Allo as evidence, their answer for messaging apps is clearly “yes, yes, and yes.”

(Fortune)

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