Google will introduce the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL today, October 4 in San Francisco. Although the company has planned to launch a slew of devices (one of which could a high-end Chromebook) in its keynote that will last for two-hours, Google will likely spend maximum time on the Pixel 2 series. This only shows serious Google is about its second innings as a hardware maker.
For years, Google has been seen as a pure software company. That’s true; Google has an expertise in making a great mobile operating system in the form of Android. But Google wants to shift to making its own hardware, at its own pace. Simply saying, it wants to beat Apple in the smartphone game.
The groundwork was laid last year when it launched the Pixel and Pixel XL. Both the Pixel and Pixel XL were designed in-house, Google’s first shot at selling smartphones under its own brand. While Google never declared how many units of the Pixel and Pixel XL were sold, but it was clear that the company sees the value of having a smartphone brand on its own, well, that can even compete with its own OEM partners, including South Korea’s Samsung.
Google has recently spent $1.1 billion to buy a close to 2,000-person team from Taiwan’s HTC. This is the same research, development and design team that has previously worked on the original Pixel smartphone as well on other Google products. This means Google has its own in-house research, development and design team. The strategy is closer to Apple – taking care of both the software and the hardware part.
The renewed interest of Google getting into the hardware side has happened when it hired Rick Osterloh last year, who had been Motorola’s chief operating officer. Under his supervision, Google went ahead with its plans to launch the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. Not just smartphones, Google confidently launched the Daydream View VR headset as well as the Home smart speaker. Time and again, Google has repeatedly said that the hardware is an important component of the business. The acquisition of HTC may prove Google’s commitment of making its own branded smartphones.
In a sea of smartphones, it has become increasing difficult to compete. If Apple has the iPhone X, Samsung is not far behind with the Galaxy Note 8. Sure, Google has got HTC’s immense talented design team, but the company needs to create a hit product that can really stop Apple’s continued winning streak in the smartphone market.
I would argue that Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL should have an exclusive feature, maybe a simple camera trick that pulls on the company’s machine learning prowess, and helps these phone stand out against the iPhones. That may change consumers’ perception about the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
The way Apple has created the buzz about the iPhone X, Google has to match up with the Cupertino company. Even if Google manages to create a distinctive phone, it has to then promote it in the right way to make it a success. In fact, the search giant has already started promoting the next Pixel in India by putting billboards at the Indira Gandhi International airport and other parts of Delhi.
Google is certainly not going the way how Microsoft haphazardly managed it smartphone business. Clearly the company has a vision and resources to build a successful smartphone brand. It has just started in the game and it needs to put a right focus on the hardware as well on software to create a compelling smartphone that can taste market success.
Disclaimer: The author is in San Francisco attending the Google Pixel launch at the invite of Google India, which is paying for accommodation, travel.