Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this before: Google is about to take hardware seriously.
Yeah, yeah, i know. I’m going to stop for a second while you regain your composure.
Look, I’m a big fan of what Google is trying to do with its Pixel products. If you’ve read my ramblings for long (or seen the multicolored NSFW “P” logo tattoos on various parts of me), you know how I feel about the Pixel’s place in the Android ecosystem and the critical role that he plays. (I’m just kidding about the tattoos, by the way.) (For now.)
But the truth is, we’ve been hearing the line “Google is about to get serious about hardware” for a long time – over and over again. At some point, you have to ask, “Uh, gang? When does it actually start?! »
Today is that day. I ask the question, publicly, here and now. But I am also cautiously conveying his optimism that the answer is being held up: “Right now – for real this time. »
All hot air aside, there’s only one way hope could happen. And it would require Google to overcome a major challenge that the company has yet to show any sign of being ready for.
Let me explain.
Perspective in pixels
First, a bit of background needed to set the scene here: It’s important to note that Google’s hardware manufacturing ambitions technically date back to pre-Pixel times. Aside from its (mostly) fan-focused Nexus phones, Google has been churning out its own Chromebook Pixel products starting in 2015. It’s been making a variety of Chromecast-branded streaming Doohickeys since 2013. And there’s been this, uh, extraordinarily short-lived Nexus Q….incident around 2012 (but we won’t talk about it).
It was when El Googster pivoted to the Pixel phone plan, however, that things really started. That’s when the hardware became minus one hobby and more than one business. And not only that, we were assured, but it also marked the beginning of hardware becoming a core part of Google’s broader business. plan for the future of the company.
“Fundamentally, we think a lot of the innovation we want to do now ends up requiring end-to-end user experience control,” Google’s then-new hardware chief. told The Verge in 2016, around the launch of the first-generation Pixel phone model.
And then there is this oft-quoted excerpt from that same article:
Osterloh knows that “we’re definitely not going to have huge volumes of this product. This is the very first round for us. The measure of Google’s success for the Pixel won’t be whether it takes significant market share, but whether it can achieve the customer satisfaction and legacy of retail and carrier partnerships that Google can exploit for years to come.
OK. Chill. 2016 was therefore the beginning. What about 2017?
That’s when Google hardware was “no longer a hobby”, because the next Article based on interviews with Osterloh at The Proclaimed Verge.
Last year was a coming-out party for Google hardware. This year is something different. It’s a statement that Google is very serious about turning the hardware into a full-fledged business at scale – but maybe not this year.
I got you. Oh, and:
While Osterloh expects the Pixel to “become a big and meaningful business for the company over time,” its benchmark right now isn’t sales, but “consumer satisfaction.” and user experience”. So I ask: what about in five years? “We don’t want it to be a niche pick,” says Osterloh. “We will resell products in large quantities within five years. »
In five years. That was 2017. And now it’s 2022. There you go.
As we approach the half-decade of Google’s last “serious” moment, it seems safe to say that Pixel adoption isn’t where Google expects it to be at this point. Most market coin analysis shows that Google is such a small part of the US mobile market that it rarely warrants a presence on an official-looking line chart. “Lower single-digit percentages” would be the most polite way to sum up the status of the brand so far.
The problem is certainly not the Pixel product or its advantages over other Android options, especially from a business perspective. Pixel phones are the only Android devices that get reliable and timely OS and security updates, even when they’re a year or two old, without any troubling asterisks — you know, pesky little things like privacy policies that allow the device manufacturer to collect and sell your personal data.
On a more tangible level, the Pixel line has some phenomenally useful features no one else even comes close to compatibility with – things like Google’s AI-powered Hold-For-You phone system, the navigation genius of the Pixel-exclusive phone maze and Pixel call filtering and filtering technology that blocks spam. And all this just the beginning.
So what gives? Well, it’s almost ridiculously simple: average schmoes need to know all of this. Humans who buy phones and the clearly non-human creatures who run corporate IT departments should be aware that even Pixel products existingfirst and foremost – and then they need to figure out why they’re worth performing on the best-known Android phone options.
So far, Google has done a pretty poor job of making that happen. My longtime exercise was to take a Pixel-exclusive feature and imagine if Apple had its grimy virtual paws on the same thing. Imagine how Apple would market it if the next iPhone had AI-enabled call screening, effective robo-blocking technology, or a futuristic hold-for-you system. They would all be innovative, revolutionary, magical and revolutionary the game changers, garsh dern it! These would be life-changing revelations available “only on iPhone” (because when someone pretentiously avoids using articles while referring to their products, you know they must matter).
Pure and simple, we will never hear the end of it. And with Google? Google has these products this minute. How many non-tech-obsessed people do you Do you know who knows about any of them?
Marketing has never been Google’s strength, to say the least. But now, as we approach that “high-volume” goal five years later, we can only hope that someone in the business realizes that great experiences alone aren’t enough to engage the masses to what you do.
You also need to make sure they know it. That’s the real challenge Google faces if it wants the Pixel brand to matter – and if it wants to convince us that it’s really, really ready to take the hardware seriously.
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