Google Doubles Down on Hardware
With a goal of building a personal Google for every user, the search engine giant announced new hardware at an event in San Francisco Tuesday, including new smartphones, a virtual reality headset and a new Wi-Fi device.
The new products helped the company play catch-up in some of the buzziest sectors in technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), 4K TV and “smart” homes.
“We are at a seminal moment in computing,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO. “When I look ahead, we are evolving from a mobile first to an AI-first computing … It will be everywhere.”
During the presentation, Pichai talked about Google’s recent advances in AI and machine learning, in part to talk about advances with Google Assistant (its Siri rival), which the company wants to be the connective tissue between all of its devices.
“Our vision is for to it be universal,” he said. “It’s equally important to get the Assistant into the hands of users, which is what today is all about.”
Signalling that this as a strong move into hardware, executives said these were devices that are “designed by and made by Google.” The company’s previous strategy was to license its tech and have it made by hardware partners, like it did with its previous Nexus lines of phones.
Despite Tuesday’s rhetoric, a spokesperson confirmed that while the products are designed by the company, they will still be actually manufactured by partners. As an example, the Pixel phones are being built by HTC.
Beyond the desire to put its Assistant in front of people, the company also looks to be putting its spin on other recent popular tech products — and at lower prices. Amazon’s Echo line of “smart” speakers, have received rave reviews in the U.S. and are a clear inspiration for Google Home.
Since the company reorganized itself as Alphabet, there have been reports about the company looking to turn more profit, as opposed to spending time and money on “moon shots,” the colloquial term for some of its more out there ideas.
As well, it is clear the Google is looking to build its own ecosystem of products, with Assistant at the centre, and other accessories to keep consumers close to the company. It is a similar approach to competitors including Apple and Samsung.
Here are the products Google launched:
Google Pixel Phones
With the launch of these devices, Google’s Nexus brand will officially be on hiatus. There will be two sizes, the Pixel has a 5-inch screen and the Pixel XL has a 5.5-inch screen. The components of the phone are expected to be premium flagship class, with an aluminum unibody design, Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, 12-megapixel cameras and fingerprint scanners. The Pixel will cost $899 and the XL will be $1,049 in Canada, and launch in November.
The phones will run Nougat, the latest Android OS, unlimited photo and video storage on Google Photos and Assistant built in. They will also be the first phones that support Daydream View, the company’s new VR headset.
The company’s VR headset that will work in conjunction with the new Pixel phones. Similar to the Samsung Galaxy VR, the phones will slide in to power the experience. It has a cloth material shell and will also ship with a hand-held remote. It will cost $79 (U.S.), with plans to launch in Canada before the end of 2016.
Like the U.S.-only Eero and Luma, Wi-Fi is part of a new thinking in router design. Rather than a single wireless unit, these routers use a number of modular remote devices that can be placed around the home to create a much stronger signal. One costs $129 (U.S.), and a three-pack costs $299. Coming soon to Canada, likely in 2017.
Chromecast Ultra: Google is updating its TV dongle, which will now support 4K and HDR content. It will cost $90 and launch sometime in November.
Google Home is meant to compete with Amazon’s Echo, a “smart” home speaker. Using Google’s Assistant, Home will allow you to use voice commands to play music, get answers from Google, manage everyday tasks and control other smart home devices. Expected to be priced at $129 (U.S.), which is cheaper than the Echo at $179 (U.S.). Neither are available in Canada, though Google Home may arrive in 2017.