Google got to where it is primarily by offering free services packed with ads, but it has increasingly experimented with a different business model: selling subscriptions in exchange for additional benefits. It is first, debuted in 2006, provided additional photo storage for users who didn’t want to have to hit the delete button. Now you can also pay Google for additional space for emails and documents, or to save recordings of nest security cameras and remove ads from youtube. Today, the company added a major new proposition to its subscription list: It’s asking people to pay more to access a smarter AI chatbot and more capable productivity helpers.
Advanced GeminiGoogle’s most powerful chatbot so far, released today behind a paywall. It costs $19.99 per month in a new tier of the Google one subscription plan known as AI Premium. Combine access to the new chatbot with existing Google One offerings, such as 2 terabytes of additional storage, a VPN, and other benefits.
AI Premium is similar in price to OpenAI’s $20/month ChatGPT Plus, but includes Google One benefits that would otherwise cost $9.99 per month. Subscribers already in most expensive Google One tiers you’ll get the new Gemini Advanced features through July 31 at no additional cost; It’s unclear what happens after that.
Google has said Gemini is at the center of its plans for an AI-enhanced future. If AI Premium finds an audience, that future could also include Google gaining a significant new revenue stream from subscriptions, as people pay to access more powerful AI tools, in the same way that gamers shell out for more powerful hardware.
Convincing consumers to move away from AI could also be imperative for Google. Although overall hard drive costs continue to fall, powerful chip prices such as Nvidia GPUs and Google TPUs, needed for cutting-edge generative AI projects, are surprisingly high as demand outstrips supply.
Shimrit Ben-Yair, vice president and general manager of the Google One business, tells WIRED that defraying the costs of the computing power behind Gemini is “definitely part of the thinking” by requiring a subscription to access the more advanced version. And it won’t be the last time Google releases an AI feature behind a paywall. “It’s just the first step in bringing many more generative AI features to market through Google One,” he says.
Google announced last week that Google One was on the verge of surpassing 100 million subscribers. Ben-Yair says AI Premium is critical for Google to hope to make its next 100 million.
The generation AI chip crisis also explains why, although AI Premium is an expansion of Google One, it comes with a significant restriction. While established Google One benefits, such as storage, can be split between six Google accounts without additional charges, only the plan administrator will have access to Gemini Advanced. “We want to build a really sustainable long-term business here,” says Shimrit Ben-Yair.
In an interview with WIRED On Google’s AI strategy in the Gemini era, CEO Sundar Pichai says the company projected potential costs and efficiencies 25 years into the future when pricing the AI Premium plan. The goal was to keep rates, in the company’s view, attractive while also providing cash to support new developments. “We’re building it in a way that over time is what allows us to invest more in the models and create that virtuous cycle,” Pichai says.