Sundar Pichai, CEO at Google, suggested plans to combined the company's software and hardware at Pixel 2's launch event.
With this, Google has begun to brand itself as a hardware company and not simply the world's leading search engine. Following the release of Pixel 2 and a wave of other devices including wireless earphones, Chromebooks, Google Home and VR head-sets, Google appears to be charging resolutely into the hardware business. Rick Osterloh, former president of Motorola, was appointed to spearhead the company's hardware initiatives. More recently, Google even invested over $1 billion to acquire portions of HTC's business.
It is not clear why Google has plunged into hardware, especially since the smartphone market is largely saturated. Only selling 1 million original Pixels, Google clearly lags far behind fellow tech giant Apple, which sees 1 million sales of their iPhones within days.
The enigma can perhaps be explained by the submerged implications of Google Assistant, which is a rival of Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri. Assistant — as well as AI more widely — appears to be Google's next big project. As such, the development of hardware can be viewed as a way to assimilate AI into the homes of the general public.
With all the excitement surrounding new gadgets set to replace the smartphone, Google is best positioned to drive innovation, since its AI technology is among the best. Google Assistant capitalises on Google's vast reservoir of information and intelligence, which allows it to fare better than its competitors.
Google biggest challenge seems to be finding a way to popularise the use of AI technologies in everyday situations. This is where its hardware products come into play. Google's new launches all feature AI in one way or another. For instance, Google Clips is a camera which uses AI and machine learning to capture videos at the best moments, whereas Pixel Buds are able to translate languages in real time. Not to mention, Assistant is now a built-in feature in most of Google's products.
By employing hardware as a way to spread AI, Google is strategically gearing itself up for the future's technology.