Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai: Interview with CNBC

CNBC: Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google, interviewed by Deirdre Bosa.

CNBC

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said while consumers are putting the Covid pandemic in the rearview mirror, the economy is clearly a growing concern for the company and the wider market.

“We certainly see the uncertainty ahead of us, like everyone else,” Pichai told CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa in an interview Wednesday at Google’s annual I/O conference in Mountain View, Calif. “The good thing is that we’ve been around as a company for a while. [We] have worked on past moments like this, whether in 2008 or the early days of the pandemic, and we are taking a long-term view.”

He also said he thought the economy would “take time to overcome” the current high rate of inflation.

“What gives uncertainty is that there are so many different factors, whether it’s supply chain issues or rising energy prices,” he said. -he declares.

“I think people are seeing relief in certain sectors,” he suggested, citing travel as an example. “But then you have other new areas that present problems, perhaps due to supply chain constraints… Energy has been an issue, for example. In some cases, rents have increased and food prices.”

The Nasdaq is heading for its biggest quarterly decline since late 2008, when the economy was in the grip of the housing crisis. Consumer prices jumped 8.3% in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday, higher than expected and near their 40-year high of 8.5%.

Shares of Google’s parent company Alphabet have fallen around 22% this year, tumbling alongside the rest of the tech sector as inflation fears and rising interest rates push investors towards higher expectations. assets considered safer in the event of a potential downturn.

Alphabet’s earnings at the end of April fell short of analysts’ estimates, largely due to a big misfire at YouTube, which was hammered along with other digital ad companies in the first quarter. The executives pointed to falling advertising spending on YouTube in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

“Of course, when you serve [ads] economy as a whole…many macroeconomic factors such as GDP growth also end up affecting advertisers’ spending,” Pichai said.

Pichai said the economic story is not entirely bleak. Building on comments from Alphabet chief commercial officer Philipp Schindler last month, he noted that people were on the move again, an important indication for Google’s core advertising unit.

“We are definitely seeing the resumption of travel,” Pichai said. “There are signs that people are clearly moving after the pandemic, and so there is a return to normal. But what gives uncertainty is that there are so many different factors, that it’s supply chain issues or rising energy prices. And so trying to add it all together is where the uncertainty is.”

Pichai pointed to the company’s technology investments as a key way to keep its business strong in times of weakness, and did not indicate that the company plans to slow hiring or pull back from areas. individuals.

“We want to be resilient in times like this. We’re very excited about the opportunities ahead. And so we’re investing. We’re continuing to hire, bringing in great talent. There are areas where we’re in which we see a transformation, like the cloud and the transformation to digital. [we] keep investing.”

Alphabet increased research and development spending 22% in the first quarter from a year earlier to $9.1 billion, despite economic uncertainty and market volatility.

He also cited the company’s diversification into many business sectors as a source of strength.

“We invest in fundamental technologies and we are present in many areas. So in some ways we are diversified. Obviously, we have important products like search and YouTube. We have computing products involving Android, Play and our hardware devices. And the cloud is a big area of ​​opportunity for us as well. So I think we’re exposed to a lot of industries. And we do that globally as a business. And I think it allows us to take a long-term view and think about these phases.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google, interviewed by CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa.

Source: CNBC

Google kicked off its conference on Wednesday by announcing new smartphones and teasing augmented reality glasses that use artificial intelligence to translate spoken words into on-screen text. Facebook parent Meta and Microsoft are also working on AR devices.

Google needs to spend to keep up with competitors in a rapidly changing market, especially with the emergence of short-video service TikTok, which is immensely popular with young consumers. Google’s answer to TikTok, YouTube Shorts, is growing rapidly, attracting more than 30 billion daily views at the end of April, up from 15 billion in January.

“We have to respond to what users are asking for,” Pichai said. “We try to give them the best experience, and so we feel challenged to do better.”

He also pointed out “things like Snapchat, Pinterest – all of that didn’t exist a few years ago,” and said smartphones and the mobile ecosystem were creating all sorts of new opportunities.

“We always have to be nimble and we have to adapt, and that’s how I feel every Monday when I come to work,” he said.

The question of freedom of expression

He also touched on the balance between free speech and moderation of content on the internet, which has received new attention lately with Elon Musk’s planned acquisition of Twitter.

“I grew up in a great democracy, and I think the importance of free speech and giving people a voice is really fundamental,” said Pichai, who was born in India. “Search represents what’s on the web today. We only remove what’s against the law.”

He added: “In a product like YouTube, where we recommend and where we can amplify content, we have community guidelines. So we have clearly stated policies. And we take action. And that’s what actually allows us to maximize freedom of expression, [to] help keep the platform safe for everyone involved.”

He also talked a bit about the company’s approach to content moderation. “I think it’s important to give people a sense of transparency. And there are lots of ways to do that. For example, we publish our community guidelines, or in the case of research, how our evaluators assess the research quality, we publish this publicly.” He added, “I think it’s important to do it in a way that spammers and others trying to circumvent your products can’t do as well.”

Regarding Musk’s plans for Twitter, he said, “I’m an avid Twitter user. I think it’s a hugely important product for the world. I got a lot out of it. And I think there is value in investing in the long term…I think it’s important because it plays an important role in democratic society…I would like to see the product continue to improve.”

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