Google is known for having a million similar products with confusingly different names and seemingly nothing in common. (Can I interest you in a messaging app?) But when it comes to AI work, there’s only one name that matters going forward: Gemini.
The company announced Thursday that it is renaming its Bard chatbot to Gemini, releasing a dedicated Gemini app for Android and even merging all Duet AI features in Google Workspace into the Gemini brand. It also announced that Gemini Ultra 1.0 – the largest and most capable version of Google’s large language model – is being released to the public.
Gemini’s mobile apps will likely be where most people encounter the new tool. If you download the new app on Android, it can set Gemini as your default assistant, meaning it replaces the Google Assistant as the thing that responds when you say “Hey Google” or long press your home button. So far, it doesn’t seem like Google is getting rid of Assistant completely, but the company has been deprioritizing Assistant for a while and clearly believes that Gemini is the future. “I think it’s a super important first step toward building a true AI assistant,” says Sissie Hsiao, who leads Bard (now Gemini) at Google. “One that is conversational, multimodal and more useful than ever before.”
There’s no dedicated Gemini app for iOS, and you can’t set a non-Siri assistant as default anyway, but you can access all the AI features in the Google app. And to give you an idea of how important Gemini is to Google, there will be a switch at the top of the app that allows you to switch from Search to Gemini. Throughout Google’s existence, Search has been by far its most important product; it’s starting to indicate that Gemini could be just as important. (For now, Google’s in-search AI is still called Search Generative Experience, by the way, but you can probably bet it will eventually be Gemini, too.)
The other changes to Gemini are mostly just branding. Google is dropping the name Bard, but otherwise the chatbot will feel the same as before; The same goes for all the AI features in Google’s Workspace apps like Gmail and Docs, which were previously called ‘Duet AI’ but are now also known as Gemini. Those are the features that let you compose an email, organize a spreadsheet, and perform other work-related tasks.
Most users will still use the standard version of the Gemini model, known as Gemini Pro. To use Gemini Ultra, the most powerful version of the model, you’ll need to sign up for a Gemini Advanced plan, which is part of the new $20 per month Google One AI Premium plan. (These names are not helpful, Google!) The plan also comes with 2TB of Google Drive storage and all the other features of the Google One plan, so Google considers it just a $10 monthly increase for those users. For everyone else, it’s the same price as ChatGPT Plus and other products – $20 per month seems to be about the going rate for a high-end AI bot.
The Ultra model can include more context and have longer conversations
For that $20 per month, Hsiao says Gemini Ultra “sets the state-of-the-art for a wide range of benchmarks across text, images, audio and video.” The Ultra model can hold more context and longer conversations, and is designed to be better at complex things like coding and logical reasoning.
It’s no surprise that Google is so all-in on Gemini, but it does raise the stakes for the company’s ability to compete with OpenAI, Anthropic, Perplexity, and the growing number of other powerful AI competitors on the market. In our testing just after the Gemini launch last year, the Gemini-powered Bard was very good, almost on par with GPT-4, but it was significantly slower. Now Google must prove it can keep up with the industry as it wants to both build a compelling consumer product and convince developers to build on Gemini and not OpenAI.
Only a few times in Google’s history has it seemed like the entire company was betting on one thing. That once changed to Google Plus… and we know how that went. But this time, it looks like Google is fully committed to being an AI company. And that means Gemini might be as big as Google.