The internet giant said in January it would cull 12,000 people, or 6 percent, of its global work force, from its payroll. As of March 31, Alphabet had 190,711 employees, compared with 190,234 at the end of last year. The company’s layoffs did not officially go into effect until the end of last month.
At the same time, Google’s search engine appeared threatened by a wave of chatbots that have captured the public imagination. In particular, tools from Microsoft and OpenAI, the maker of the popular ChatGPT chatbot, have begun testing Google’s mettle.
In March, Google released a chatbot called Bard to mixed reviews, but the company does not generate revenue from the tool. The New York Times has reported that Google will incorporate conversational A.I. features into its flagship search engine in May, and has begun work on a new, more personalized search engine designed to take advantage of A.I. advances.
Last week, Alphabet consolidated its main A.I. teams into one unit, Google DeepMind, to make quicker progress in the field. The move combined the London-based A.I. lab DeepMind with Google Brain, part of the company’s research division. DeepMind’s chief executive, Demis Hassabis, assumed control of the group. Jeff Dean, Google’s top research executive, had previously overseen Google Brain, which he co-founded.
In an earnings call on Tuesday, Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s chief executive, said the company had made “good progress” in A.I., comparing it to the company’s transition from desktop to mobile computing more than a decade ago.
“Our investments and breakthroughs in A.I. over the last decade have positioned us well,” he said, while promising a raft of new A.I. features in everything from Android smartphones to software for other businesses. He added that he hoped Google’s efforts to develop A.I. features would help the company retain its large user base.
“We’ll continue to incorporate generative A.I. advances to make search better in a thoughtful and deliberate way,” he said.