Executive Briefings

Google Is Finally Getting Serious About Hardware. Here's Why.

The brief history of Google's forays into mobile hardware goes something like this: In the beginning - circa 2007, at the dawn of the mobile era - Google vowed it would not make hardware, preferring to let a vast ecosystem of Android device makers thrive.

Google Is Finally Getting Serious About Hardware. Here's Why.

Four years later, Google did a dramatic, $12.5bn U-turn, moving aggressively into hardware with its acquisition of Motorola Mobility. That period lasted just two years.

In early 2014, then-CEO Larry Page said Google didn’t want to be in the hardware business after all, and sold off Motorola to Lenovo for $2.9bn (though it kept Motorola patents worth billions). “The smartphone market is super competitive, and to thrive it helps to be all-in when it comes to making mobile devices,” Page wrote at the time. Google wasn’t all-in, so it would be all out. For a little while. It turned out that this new, hardware-free period would be even shorter.

Last year, Google reversed course one more time, launching its widely acclaimed Pixel phones and entering the smart-speaker race with Google Home.

Now, Google is showing all the signs of planning to be in the hardware and consumer-electronics business for the long haul. Last month, it agreed to spend over $1bn to acquire some 2000 HTC engineers who made the Pixel, buying itself a top-notch hardware team. Two weeks later, at a San Francisco event, Google introduced an impressive array of hardware products, including new Pixels, new high-end and low-end Home speakers, a new AI-powered camera, a new AI-powered set of wireless headphones, a high-end Chromebook laptop (along with Google Assistant-powered stylus) and an updated set of VR goggles.

“It'll take a long time for us to build the capabilities to be global consumer-electronics company, but it's definitely something that we want to do,” Rick Osterloh, who heads Google’s hardware group, told me during an interview following the product introductions.

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Four years later, Google did a dramatic, $12.5bn U-turn, moving aggressively into hardware with its acquisition of Motorola Mobility. That period lasted just two years.

In early 2014, then-CEO Larry Page said Google didn’t want to be in the hardware business after all, and sold off Motorola to Lenovo for $2.9bn (though it kept Motorola patents worth billions). “The smartphone market is super competitive, and to thrive it helps to be all-in when it comes to making mobile devices,” Page wrote at the time. Google wasn’t all-in, so it would be all out. For a little while. It turned out that this new, hardware-free period would be even shorter.

Last year, Google reversed course one more time, launching its widely acclaimed Pixel phones and entering the smart-speaker race with Google Home.

Now, Google is showing all the signs of planning to be in the hardware and consumer-electronics business for the long haul. Last month, it agreed to spend over $1bn to acquire some 2000 HTC engineers who made the Pixel, buying itself a top-notch hardware team. Two weeks later, at a San Francisco event, Google introduced an impressive array of hardware products, including new Pixels, new high-end and low-end Home speakers, a new AI-powered camera, a new AI-powered set of wireless headphones, a high-end Chromebook laptop (along with Google Assistant-powered stylus) and an updated set of VR goggles.

“It'll take a long time for us to build the capabilities to be global consumer-electronics company, but it's definitely something that we want to do,” Rick Osterloh, who heads Google’s hardware group, told me during an interview following the product introductions.

Read Full Article

Google Is Finally Getting Serious About Hardware. Here's Why.