Wednesday , September 1 2021

Google is getting serious about hardware

Google’s new hardware campus shows it’s trying to be more like Apple

I’ve been a Pixel fan since the original, but I can’t help but feel the phones have often been a bit of an afterthought for Google. The company has financial resources that few in the world can compare to, after all, yet its hardware has often paled in comparison to its Android siblings — let alone Apple. While Apple is often pushing the boundaries of hardware as well as software, people mainly buy Pixel phones for the software experience.

But it finally feels like things might just be changing. Case in point: according to a report by CNBC, Google is opening a new campus in Silicon Valley largely dedicated to supporting its hardware offerings.

CNBC says it obtained preliminary plans for the new campus. Google has reportedly spent “more than $389 million” on land in San Jose to build an “R&D” facility. This campus would include a center for hardware operations, as well as “a new tech campus that would be accessible to the public.”

It will consist of five office buildings connected by a pedestrian bridge, as well as “three industrial buildings that will house some operations for its hardware division, including Nest products.” The plans also mention the facilities will be involved with ‘Google Hardware,’ which suggests products like the Pixel line.

Google Nest Doorbell, Nest Cam Indoor, and Nest Cam (battery)
Google’s latest Nest cameras
Google Nest Doorbell, Nest Cam Indoor, and Nest Cam (battery)

The new campus will be located between its classic Mountain View campus and the new mixed-use campus in San Jose. Fittingly, the hardware campus will be called ‘Midpoint.’

Google has traditionally focused most of its efforts on its ad business and software services like YouTube and its cloud offerings. Hardware has made up a relatively small part of the company’s revenue, but several recent moves by the company seem to indicate a greater hardware focus to come:

  • The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro appear to be the company’s first flagships that have hardware on par with the competition since the original.
  • The company is creating its own custom SoC, dubbed Google Tensor, for the Pixel 6 family.
  • The company has been using more custom chips throughout its Nest products too.
  • Google bought Fitbit.
  • The company seems to be expanding its hardware portfolio in general, with everything from phones, to routers, to laptops, to speakers, to security cameras, and all sorts of accessories.
  • Google opened up the first real ‘Google Store’ in NYC this year.

I don’t expect Google to dedicate quite as many resources to hardware as Apple might, but it’s clear the company sees hardware as an important part of its future. There’s only so far it can get by focusing on services; it’s hardware that leads many users to commit to a platform long-term.

The Pixel line has nowhere near the mindshare or market share as Apple’s iPhones, so a wider emphasis on hardware could help the company catch up. There’s no word on when the new campus is expected to be completed, but I’m more excited about the products that will emerge from it.

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This Article was first published on thenextweb.com

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