Strong results for Google as Assistant quadruples active users

Fourth-quarter revenues climb 22% year on year to $39bn.

Strong results for Google as Assistant quadruples active users

The number of people actively using Google’s smart Assistant service has quadrupled year on year, the tech giant's chief executive, Sundar Pichai, said during the company's full-year earnings call last night.

The rise was due in part to the popularity of the voice-operated Google Home hardware range, in which Assistant is embedded, with "millions" sold between October and December 2018. Assistant is now available in nearly 30 languages and 80 countries.

"People used Google to cook over 16 million recipes [during the quarter], including a million on Christmas Day alone," Pichai claimed.

The rise of voice tech accompanied continued strong performance in Google’s core advertising business, which reported quarterly revenue of $32.6bn, up from $27.2bn a year earlier.

Ruth Porat, chief financial officer at Google’s parent company Alphabet, told investors that backing Assistant was a key contributor to the growth in advertising expenses during the quarter.

Alphabet’s operating costs were up 27% year on year, Porat said, with headcount up from 94,000 in the third quarter to nearly 99,000, primarily focused on supporting its Cloud offering.

Porat claimed: "We see significant ongoing potential to apply our machine-learning capabilities across our businesses. In the advertising business, machine learning has enabled innovation in advertisers’ ability to match consumer intent and to bid more effectivley for improved ROI. It has also enhanced the ability of smaller businesses to benefit from advertising on our platforms.

"Machine learning is also driving differentiation for newer Google businesses, Cloud and hardware, and is also central to other bets like [driving-technology company] Waymo and [life-sciences venture] Verily."

Porat and Pichai were bullish about the contribution of YouTube, with the latter highlighting a number of aspects:

  • YouTube Music and YouTube Premium are now available in nearly 30 countries, up from five at the start of 2018.
  • YouTube has nearly two billion monthly logged-in users.
  • The number of YouTube channels with more than one million subscribers nearly doubled in the past year.
  • The number of YouTube creators earning five or six figures grew by more than 40% year on year.
  • Warner Bros embedded the first full-length film in an ad on YouTube and reached a record number of people – more than 17 million users in a single day. Viewers who watched the trailer for The Lego Movie 2 on Black Friday were served the franchise’s original film for free within the ad.
  • Since direct response ad offering TruView for Action launched in March 2018, more than 30% of the advertisers that use it are new to using video ads on YouTube.
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