The lacking piece in Google’s Pixel puzzle

All proper, cease me in the event you’ve heard this earlier than: Google’s about to get severe about {hardware}.

Yeah, yeah — I do know. I will pause for a second when you regain your composure.

Look, I am an enormous fan of what Google’s attempting to do with its Pixel merchandise. Should you’ve learn my ramblings for lengthy (or seen the NSFW multicolored “P”-logo tattoos on varied elements of my particular person), you understand how I really feel concerning the Pixel’s place within the Android ecosystem and the crucial function it performs. (Simply kidding concerning the tattoos, by the best way.) (For now.)

However the fact is that we have been listening to the “Google’s about to get severe about {hardware}” line for a very long time now — over and again and again. At a sure level, you have gotta ask: “Uh, gang? When is that this really beginning?!”

At present’s that day. I am asking, publicly, proper right here and now. However I am additionally cautiously expressing optimism that the reply is a convincing: “Proper now — for reals this time.”

All sizzling air apart, there’s just one means that hope might occur. And it’d require Google overcoming a significant problem the corporate has but to point out any signal of being prepared to tug off.

Permit me to clarify.

Pixel perspective

First, a little bit of needed context to set the stage right here: It is necessary to notice that Google’s hardware-making ambitions technically stretch again to the pre-Pixel days. Except for its (largely) fan-focused Nexus telephones, Google cooked up its personal Chromebook Pixel products beginning again in 2015. It has been making quite a lot of Chromecast-branded streaming doohickeys since 2013. And there was that, erm, terribly short-lived Nexus Q….incident circa 2012 (however we cannot speak about that).

It was when El Googster pivoted to the Pixel telephone plan, although, that issues actually acquired goin’. That is when {hardware} turned much less of a pastime and extra of a enterprise. And never solely that, we have been assured, however it additionally marked the start of {hardware} turning into a core a part of Google’s broader enterprise plan for the way forward for the corporate.

“Basically, we imagine that lots of the innovation that we need to do now finally ends up requiring controlling the end-to-end person expertise,” then-new-head-of-Google-hardware Rick Osterloh told The Verge in 2016, across the launch of the first-gen Pixel telephone mannequin.

After which there’s this oft-quoted excerpt from that very same article:

Osterloh is aware of that “We actually aren’t going to have huge volumes out of this product. That is very first innings for us.” Google’s metric of success for Pixel received’t be whether or not it picks up important market share, however whether or not it could possibly garner buyer satisfaction and kind retail and service partnerships that Google can leverage for years to come back.

Okay. Cool. So 2016 was the start. What about 2017?

That is when Google {hardware} was “not a pastime,” because the subsequent Osterloh-interview-driven article at The Verge proclaimed.


Final 12 months was a coming-out occasion for Google {hardware}. This 12 months is one thing totally different. It is a assertion that Google may be very severe about turning {hardware} into an actual enterprise on an enormous scale — simply perhaps not this 12 months.

Gotcha. Oh, and:

Whereas Osterloh expects the Pixel to “turn into massive, significant enterprise for the corporate over time,” proper now his benchmark is not gross sales, it is “client satisfaction and person expertise.” So I ask: What about 5 years out? “We do not need it to be a distinct segment factor,” Osterloh says. “We hope to be promoting merchandise in excessive volumes in 5 years.”

In 5 years. That was 2017. And now, it is 2022. Right here we’re.

Pixel potential

As we close to the half-decade mark of Google’s final “getting severe” second, it appears protected to say Pixel adoption is not the place Google had hoped it might be by this level. Most market share analyses present Google with such a small share of the U.S. cell market that it hardly ever even warrants a presence on an official-looking line graph. “Decrease single-digit percentages” can be probably the most well mannered solution to sum up the model’s standing to date.

The issue actually is not the Pixel product or its benefits over different Android choices, notably from a enterprise perspective. Pixel telephones are the one Android gadgets that get consistently timely and reliable operating system and security updates, even after they’re a 12 months or two outdated, with none troubling asterisks — y’know, pesky little issues like privateness insurance policies that enable the machine’s maker to collect and sell your personal data.

On a extra tangible degree, the Pixel line has some phenomenally useful features nobody else even comes near matching — issues like Google’s A.I.-powered hold-for-you telephone system, the Pixel-exclusive phone-maze navigation genie, and the spam-stopping Pixel name filtering and screening expertise. And all of that is just the start.

So what provides? Effectively, it is virtually laughably easy: Common schmoes must find out about all of these items. Telephone-buying people and the clearly nonhuman creatures who head up firm IT departments must remember that Pixel merchandise even exist, in the beginning — after which they’ve to grasp why they’re price their whereas to think about over the extra generally identified Android telephone choices.

So far, Google’s carried out a pretty poor job of creating that occur. My long-standing train is to take a Pixel-exclusive characteristic and picture if Apple acquired its grubby digital paws on that exact same factor. Think about how Apple would promote it if the following iPhone had A.I.-enabled name screening, efficient robocall-blocking expertise, or a futuristic hold-for-you system. They’d all be revolutionary, groundbreaking, magical and revolutionary game-changers, garsh dern it it! They’d be life-transforming revelations obtainable “solely on iPhone” (as a result of when somebody pretentiously avoids the usage of articles whereas referring to their merchandise, you recognize they must be necessary).

Plain and easy, we would by no means hear the top of it. And with Google? Google’s acquired these items this minute. What number of non-tech-obsessed individuals do you know who’re conscious of any of ’em?

Advertising has by no means been Google’s power, to place it mildly. However now, as we close to that five-years-later “excessive quantity” goalpost, we are able to solely hope that somebody within the firm realizes that distinctive experiences alone aren’t sufficient to get the lots on board with what you are doing.

You even have to verify they find out about it. That is the actual problem Google’s gotta grasp if it needs to make the Pixel model matter — and if it needs to persuade us that it is actually, actually able to take {hardware} critically.

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