Google’s head of hardware is betting big on ambient computing

It's time for Google to increase the volume, metaphorically, on the sale of hardware. That was my conclusion of a conversation with Rick Osterloh, the head of Google's newly-named "Devices and Services" division. "We just passed our third anniversary as an organization," he says, but "last year was a really crucial year."

It was. In 2018, Google acquired engineers from HTC, launched Pixel 3 and finally integrated Nest. This year, Google is beginning to take advantage of those decisions. The new Pixel 3A is the first phone to fully utilize the "Taiwan computer", as Google refers to former employees of HTC. And Google has finally made the move to merge its own home-focused product division with Nest. "Pixel means Google's first-person phone products," says Osterloh, "and Nest will refer to Google's first-person home products."

If Google's hardware does not take off in large numbers in the next two years, it will not be due to lack of resources or confusion about who does what in Google The track for Google hardware has been straightened and cleared But it has not been, in my opinion, long. "Five years after founding the division, Osterloh originally told me he expected to" sell products in large volumes "when we talk in 2017. Therefore, he does not have much time left. [19659004] Sales numbers are "good, but not where we want to be" yet

This year, Osterloh says that Google's hardware sales numbers are "good, but not where we want to be at the end of five years." Investors seem to agree, beating CEO Sundar Pichai on how hardware has not contributed much to Google's results on the last quarterly call.

So, it's no wonder Google is looking Increase those numbers by selling a new Pixel phone with lower cost. The Pixel 3A starts at $ 399, but has the same industry-leading camera in the more expensive Pixel 3. The 3A is not only economical, but also available in more US operators. UU., Basically, everyone, except AT & T.

With 3A, Osterloh clearly goes for large volume numbers. "It's no secret that you have to be big in the smart phone business to have a big business," he says.

googles head of hardware is betting big on ambient computing

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Osterloh is now in charge of all Google hardware, from Pixel phones to Stadia game controllers, but the "Services" part of his division is increasingly important. Those services include Google One (which is mostly storage for now, but could grow to include more things), AR / VR and the upcoming Stadia gaming service. Basically, if you are a consumer who gives money to Google for something, it is likely that the division of Osterloh is in charge of making sure it is good.

The change that is most instructive about the future could be the recently merged group of Google Nest.

Since its acquisition in 2014, Nest has been a hot potato within Alphabet, Google's parent company. It was purchased by Google, but then operated independently as an independent unit when the company reorganized as Alphabet before joining Google again in 2018. It was still meant to work in its own lane, but then it became part of the The Google Home team later that year.

It has been confusing, and Osterloh admits that "synchronization" was one of the reasons why he could not clear up that confusion before. His division was too young to merge into a completely different team. "We have definitely evolved our strategy," he says. He points to Google's classic problem of multiple divisions trying to do the same, and says it definitely applies to Home and Nest. He says there was an "overlap of 70 to 80 percent" in the long-term plans between the two groups and that "if you put them together, you could eliminate them and get to the final state faster with more impact."

Google Nest Hub Max is the first example of this integration: it's a smart Google Assistant screen that can also work like a Nest camera. Another immediate impact is giving Nest users the option to convert their accounts into full Google accounts, which have all of Google's security infrastructure. "We have had security challenges with some Nest users," Osterloh admits, referring to users who reuse compromised passwords.

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Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

There will be a new set of privacy policies for users that make the change from a Nest account to a Google account, and any change like this should make users have the reason to have to study the privacy policies. Osterloh says that Nest users who make the change can expect that "the commitments we are making with our users are the same as Nest would have made with their users if they were an independent company". There's a lot to cover here, and we're doing it in a separate piece.

If you're looking for what unites Nest, Pixel and other hardware products from Google, the obvious answer is that it's the Google Assistant. And Osterloh's broader vision is to go beyond the mobile to "environmental computing." In his last column, Walt Mossberg popularized that term and Google is now grabbing it big time.

This is how Osterloh describes it: "Our vision is that everything around you should be able to help you, and many things are becoming computers that we think users should be able to get help without problems where they need it from a variety of different devices. "

Read between those lines and you will see two things. First of all, Osterloh is convinced that Google products are forming an ecosystem, one in which Pixels and Nest products and Chromebooks work better together than apart. Second, entering into that environmental computing ecosystem will likely require you to obtain more than one of those devices.

Therefore, Google will try to create and sell them to you. Now that the Devices and Services group is established and that Nest is finally fully integrated, there is nothing left on the way, there are no questions about what to do or what divisions should do it. Now Google only has the clear task of competing directly against Apple, Amazon and Samsung for mobile devices and home. No pressure.

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