Oct 6, 2016

[Google] A New Push Into Our Homes

Google has made some big announcements this week, most of which were hardware-focused instead of software. In recent years we've all been watching Google attempt to push deeper and deeper into the hardware market, bringing the company in direct competition with both Apple and Amazon.

There were some fluffy announcements that weren't all that exciting like the new Chromecast that adds 4K video and HDR support and more visually appealing VR headsets instead of the old cardboard stuff.

We had also expected the announcement of a product like Google Home, which is designed to compete with Amazon's Echo before Apple can get something out into the market. They've also positioned Google Assistant  as the central force driving a lot of these devices as part of going from, "mobile first to AI first" thinking. At least Assistant will have more value than just a part of the weird mobile-only messaging app Allo.

Google WiFi is an interesting entry into home networking with what is essentially an effort to create user-friendly WiFi extenders. Sure we noted Google experimenting in this area with OnHub but this still feels like something outside their core mission. It's just an effort to cut out the middle man and do their best to facilitate better WiFi for accessing Google services but to what end?

The central piece to this new wave of products is the new Google Pixel phone, a device that is touted as being fully designed by Google instead of through old Nexus partners like HTC and Huawei. Google Assistant is a key feature of the device in a clear effort to better match Siri versus the comparatively more passive Google Now. I do feel bad that Pixel also silently represents the retirement of the old Nexus brand, but what can we do? This is the future.

I'm not sure how I feel about a more hardware-focused Google. They're very late to the game and this is well outside their core areas of expertise. And while it promises some exciting new things for us, we can only wonder how far these products will go. Or will they join the ranks of other Google experiments, leaving users deprived of services they may become accustomed to in time.

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