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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