Google, it turns out, really cares about making self-branded hardware. The first two Chromebook Pixels weren't a fluke, nor were the 2016 Google Pixel phones a one-off thought. With its October 4 event, Google didn't just "double down" on hardware — it quadrupled down, announcing four new versions of existing products (Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixelbook, Daydream View) and four altogether new ones (Home Max, Home Mini, Pixel Buds, Clips).
Google announced a great mix of practical and aspirational products.
Google's announcements all held their own purpose, and from my perspective importantly split between both practical and aspirational products. The Pixel 2 and 2 XL are ready-for-market high-end smartphones, and the new Daydream View headset and Google Home Mini are meant to get out there in the millions at low price points to support the phones. But just as importantly Google also showed off new hardware that's meant to be an exercise in "let's show people what we're capable of" rather than aiming for the mass market: the Google Pixelbook, Google Home Max, Pixel Buds and Google Clips. None of these will be big sellers, but they are aspirational products that help people associate Google with lust-worthy hardware even if they end up just buying a Pixel 2 or Google Home Mini instead.
For once, the amount of effort Google's putting behind hardware isn't in question.
When paired with last month's acqui-hire of 2,000 HTC engineers and some valuable IP licenses, this event looks even more enticing to those of us who enjoy Google's hardware experiences. Not only is Google clearly improving on many of its hardware offerings that it intends to sell at scale, but it's also introducing new product lines and hiring product-focused people to continue them. For once, the amount of effort Google's putting behind hardware isn't in question.
Now, as ever, we need some execution. Rick Osterloh, the head of Google's hardware division, made a funny quip on stage this week about making enough Pixels this time around. It's fun to joke about in a room full of people who are in the industry ... but Google's inability to keep together a supply line of phones seriously hurt Pixel sales and public perception of the company's store. You have to graduate from the amateur ranks of logistics — all of these great-looking products depend on it.
And with that, a few more thoughts on the week that was:
- I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop with Google making changes to Project Fi to support these new Pixels and the Moto X4. If Google cares about growing the service, it has to offer more to family plans and cut its per-gigabyte pricing.
- As I ranted about on this week's podcast (great episode, by the way), what rubs me the wrong way more than the lack of a headphone jack is Google's decision to not ship headphones with the new Pixels.
- I know a lot of phones don't come with headphones, but we're not at the point where people already have USB-C headphones — Google needs to seed the market by putting a pair in the box, especially with phones this expensive.
- Sonos announcing Alexa support got completely squashed by Google's event on the same day, but I'm not sure how big it would've been on any other wide-open Wednesday. For someone who isn't already invested in the Sonos system, It feels like too little too late.
Have a great week, everyone.
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