It was impossible to miss Tuesday evening, at the big annual Google I / O conference organized at the Californian headquarters of the group: Pixel products were omnipresent. The Mountain View giant intends to expand the home range, with the upcoming release of its highly anticipated Pixel Watch, but also a new Pixel 6A smartphone and Pixel Buds Pro headphones. A tablet is also expected next year. Not to mention the glasses with instant translation capabilities that Google quickly released in a video, without giving details on possible commercialization.
This insistence on installing the Pixel range is surprising at first glance. Google has so far had only acclaimed successes with its in-house products – talked about by critics, but shunned by consumers. Six years after their launch, Pixel smartphones imposed in 2021 barely 1% of the global market, according to IDC, while at the same time devices from Chinese Xiaomi, for example, emerged from virtual anonymity to become the third most popular brand. best-selling on the planet.
Google’s latest, the Pixel 6, certainly had the best launch of the entire range last year according to Google boss Sundar Pichai – with three times as many copies lost according to its predecessor. But these remain confidential volumes compared to Apple or Samsung. Hardware sales are not detailed in the results of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. They are included in the group’s “other income”, which represents only 11% of the total, yet including the juicy commissions from the Play Store and subscriptions to YouTube and other services.
Some observers point out that Google itself seems to put less resources into promoting and distributing the Pixel line than into product design. Its last two iconic products – the Pixel 6 and its Pro version – were only available in 8 countries when they were released. Even today, the Google Store only offers them in 12 national markets.
Spare your partners
The group has objective reasons to limit sales. Google doesn’t want to get angry with its big partners in the Android ecosystem, like Xiaomi or Samsung. The South Korean group, the world’s leading seller of Android devices, would no doubt take a dim view of too brutal competition from its supplier. Or having a very large network of devices using its tools is the key to Google’s advertising business – an activity that brings in more than 200 billion dollars a year.
On the other hand, the American group is already scrutinized from every angle by competition authorities around the world. To become essential in consumer hardware would be to open the flank to new antitrust attacks.
For all these reasons, the Pixel range is not so much attractive to Google today as a source of income as a development platform. Its smartphones – and soon its new tablet – embed the in-house Tensor chip. This allows Google to work on the optimization between the hardware and its Android software – a formula that has made Apple’s unparalleled success.
The group thus uses its Pixels to develop advanced functionalities. This ranges from translating videos instantly, even offline, to using your smartphone as a car key. The Pixel range acts as a scout for the Android army, without overshadowing its generals Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo…