Budget cuts in Google’s R&D. The company is canceling half of its projects in its internal Area 120 R&D division. This information reported by TechCrunch has been confirmed by Google with the news site. The company informed its staff on Tuesday, September 13, 2022 of a 50% reduction in staff within the incubator since half of the projects are cancelled.
Employees whose project is stopped must find a new job within Google by the end of January 2012 where they will be dismissed. It is not certain that they will all be able to find a new position. “Affected team members will receive dedicated help seeking new projects and opportunities within Google”says a spokesperson.
It’s not that much of a surprise. Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s CEO, opened the door to budget cuts by saying last week that the group needs to be 20% more efficient. A change of course compared to the announcements made in July: Sundar Pichai had declared that Google would slow down hiring over the rest of the year and concentrate its efforts on certain projects. At the time, the company clarified that no layoffs were planned and that engineers and some technicians would still be hired in positions deemed essential.
With this new focus on productivity, Google recognizes that teams could be restructured, products discontinued or downgraded, and positions eliminated. Its incubator is the first division affected. “Area 120 is an in-house incubator for new experimental productsdetails a spokesperson with TechCrunch. The group regularly starts and stops projects, seeking to complete the most promising opportunities.”
Several products have been released after an incubation period within Area 120 such as GameSnacks which is now integrated into Google Chrome, Tables (Google Cloud), AdLingo (a conversational advertising platform accessible on Google Cloud), the Tangi and Shoploop video platforms (attached respectively to Google Search and Google Shopping), Touring Bird (a travel application) and the technical maintenance platform Byteboard, which is one of the few divisions that has become independent.
The 7 projects stopped
Of the 14 incubated projects, only 7 remain. One of the projects being phased out has already seen the light of day. This is Qaya. This service helps content creators to develop a digital showcase in order to more easily market their creations (it is for example possible to put a link to this digital showcase on social networks). Qaya is integrated with Google Search and Google Shopping.
The other six canceled projects have yet to see the light of day. These are, TechCrunch list, a financial accounting project for Google Sheet, a shopping-related product, analytics for virtual and augmented reality, and three climate-related projects (a map with charging stations for electric vehicles, counting the carbon emissions of an IT project, measuring carbon from forests).
artificial intelligence projects
Last year, the incubator has already undergone a reorganization by being integrated within the new Google Labs division. Area 120 was bundled with other forward-looking Google projects like those related to virtual and augmented reality as well as its 3D video chat project known as Starline. Google Labs and the Starline project do not seem affected by these staff reductions for the moment.
From now on, Area 120 will focus on projects related to artificial intelligence and no longer feed more generally the creation of new products within Google. “We recently announced that Area 120 will be changing its mission to focus on projects arising from Google’s significant investment in artificial intelligence that have the potential to solve user problems.” This explains the discontinuation of projects that no longer fall within this new framework.