In October last year, Google hired Javier Soltero to be G Suite’s VP and GM, its range of office applications, and — critically for the news today — Google Meet and Google Talk. Now, the company places him in charge of yet another range of products: calls, double, and Android’s phone app.
The switch brings under one umbrella all of Google’s big communications products: the Soltero unit. Soltero tells me there are no plans to change or merge all of Google’s applications directly so don’t (yet) set your expectations for that. “We agree that people make decisions on the goods they choose for different reasons,” says Soltero.
Nonetheless, Google’s communications apps are in desperate need of a more cohesive and opinionated growth of content and Soltero may well be the best person to provide that path. He had a long career before joining Google, which included developing the much-loved Acompli email service that Microsoft bought and eventually becoming the new Outlook client less than two months after signing the contract.
Soltero has already worked quickly (at least by Google’s contact software standards) to clear up the branding mess of Hangouts, turning Hangouts Video to Google Meet, and Hangouts Chat to Google Talk — at least on the business side. And because of the pandemic, Google Meet was accessible for all well ahead of the initial timetable. Cleaning up the customer side of more difficult things, but Soltero says, “The plan is still to modernize [Hangouts] through Google Meet and Google Talk.”
The way Soltero characterizes his role is to “push more creativity and transparency about how such applications will serve their unique missions.” It implies that he may not want to merge any of Google’s messaging apps like the manner Facebook intends to do for Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. In reality, he says that “these products play an important role in people’s lives” and “it would be reckless” to give these products too rapid chances because people depend on them.
Soltero will continue to work on the cloud team but will join the leadership team of Hiroshi Lockheimer. Lockheimer himself has gradually taken over products from Google’s site, overseeing both Android and Chrome OS. A couple of times Soltero told me he’s fairly new at Google. This means he inherits a lot of the cultural baggage — but he should at least put a fresh pair of eyes on it.
Other than cracking jokes, it no longer matters that Google Plus begat Hangouts engaged Allo in the RCS talk in Android Messages. What counts now is that Google wants to get out of history and build nice, useful, collaboration apps together.