Is Google becoming a hardware company?

By , Jul 14, 2012

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, an annual retreat Apple CEO Tim Cook also attended, that it was always Google’s intention to make its own hardware though he didn’t go as far as to call the search giant a hardware company. But in reality, Google more than just dipped its toes in hardware..

Schmidt told The New York Times at the conference:

We always wanted to be in the hardware business. Larry and Sergey have always wanted to do hardware in one form or another. This was a way to get into it quickly.

I’d add that with its $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility, Google has officially become a handset maker.

On that acquisition, Schmidt commented:

While Mr. Schmidt acknowledged that Google purchased the company and its patents, in part, as a reaction to rival “Apple’s behavior,” he said its hardware business was a real draw. Mr. Schmidt was tight-lipped about Google’s plans for Motorola but he promised that a new batch of products were nearly ready for prime time.

But Motorola phones are just a tip of the iceberg.

Google-branded hardware includes the Nexus family of devices made possible through close partnerships with hardware makers that engineer and manufacture gear according to Google’e blueprints.

These include the Galaxy Nexus, a Samsung-made smartphone which offers so-called stock Android experience, the Asus-made Nexus 7 tablet which seems to have gotten off to a brisk start across retail chains, the Nexus Q media streaming device and the Glass Project, an experimental wearable computing device.

Google also customizes its own servers in data centers (and designs them with environment and energy efficiency in mind), produces a backpack-worn camera that captures street-level imagery in places where one can only walk and operates a fleet of airplanes that capture three-dimensional views, soon to be available in the forthcoming update to its mobile Google Earth app.

And of course, they tap third-parties to make Chromebooks, inexpensive netbooks for online use built around flash storage and Google’s Chrome operating system.

Google is not a hardware maker per se in a way Apple is because it doesn’t (yet) manage the supply chain or commission Asian contract manufacturers to assemble its products.

Nonetheless, clearly Google is big on hardware. While it’s less involved in hardware production itself, Google relies greatly on third-parties to build a bunch of devices optimized for its services. And nearly all of the Google-branded consumer products were conceived in Mountain View, California.

I guess you could say that Google is becoming a designer of gadgets which doesn’t (yet) leverage a hands-on approach to hardware engineering as Apple.

And when you think of it, it does make a lot of sense for Google to take a more hands-on approach to designing consumer products just as Apple is taking a more aggressive stance with online services, traditionally Google’s home turf, with its own mapping service and the iCloud platform.

The bottom line: as Google and Apple take on each other’s respective core strengths, we should benefit from increased competition giving birth to a greater number of integrated, streamlined and beautiful products that “just work”.

Thoughts?

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  • http://twitter.com/sivkai Siv

    Great article, and I concur. Google is getting comfortable in the hardware platform and rightly so, healthy competition means more innovation from Apple :)

    PS I must say though, that picture of Eric Schmidt is very unsettling :o

    • JamesR624

      No. It just means more litigation from Apple. Don’t fool yourself. We all know apple can’t actually innovate. If they could, you’d be seeing more products and a LOT less lawsuits. All these bans on competition is them ADMITTING they have NO IDEA what to do. I don’t think Jobs was “a god” or anything. In fact, I think he was kind of an ass, but he WAS the main driving force that got apple to be so great. Without him, they’re completely lost. We saw this happen in the 90’s and we are seeing it happen again. The only difference is, this time, Job’s WON’T come back to save them when they near bankruptcy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/luisreyespr Luis

        I think Jobs was “a god” or anything similar. In fact, He was an ass, and he WAS the main driving force that got apple to be so great and stable. Apple can’t innovate, they can only introduce personal computing to the world, only commercialized the mouse and the graphical user interface to the world, only revolutionized the music industry along with the music players, they are only responsible for the start of the animated movie films, they revolutionized and changed the phone industry along with touch-screens and multitouch, apple only created the modern tablet industry standar and created the best ecosystem between hardware ever built, they didnt revolutionized cloud computing, but oddly enough now they are the ‘example to follow’ after iCloud’s inception. Apple is steps behinds in some areas, but in innovation on introduction of new products is the one thing you cant strip them off out.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1162278746 Ingmar Sdlr

        Well a god is quite a thing to say. He alone couldn’t ever do all the things you mention. Most of the things you mention weren’t innovated or invented by Apple (besides itunes, which they also just bought too from someone else). Most of their devices were bought of someone else. Mouse => Xerox labs. Apples “innovation” comes from a unique coincidence of beeing the former underdog against the “Evil Empire” Intel+Microsoft. So they perfected their marketing and there is definitively a Apple Nimbus. They have perfected the Web 2.0 fanbase (with blogs, webpages et al) who do their marketing par excellence.

        Apple played a risky game: the ipad could also have been a financial disaster. Microsoft and others had tablet computers a while ago, but they didn’t make it.

        Now apple and others have changed most of the IT, there is no more room for big innovation (atleast IMHO!). The jump from regular to touchscreen smartphone is completed, the change from portable computers to Pads was done.. what’s next?

        Apple now starts to get bitchy by sueing others for trivial patents (who the hell ever granted those without using his brain? Systemwide search? Apple has the patent. Voice search? Apple has the patent.. Both of those have prior art (star trek communicator anyone?).

        So we’ll see if soon someone gets this patents revoked.

        Apple should get their money out of the lawyer department and back to the inventors/copycats. Since Google now starts to really get involved into the hardware market, Apple has finally a real competitor.

        And computer markets can change quite quickly. See IBM, RIM etc. (even Apple beeing near bankrupcy and saved by Microsoft some years ago).

      • Zac Caslin

        Are you retarded? They better do somthing fast their cash is running out.

      • maurid

        See all the thumbs down you got? That is what you get for stating a true fact here. Technically equivalent to Apple suing everyone else because they realize they’re lost. People here are so blind, it’s un-fcking-believable.

  • seyss

    They recently realized something Apple realized decades ago… You will only be able to do the best software if the hardware was designed by you. Android is the example.

    • http://twitter.com/costiviri Su_Cöstiinha_19

      hello? android is the same shit.

  • maurid

    *ehem* Samsung makes your screens Apple *ehem*

  • http://twitter.com/costiviri Su_Cöstiinha_19

    we want annonnym comments, iDB

  • http://www.facebook.com/yuvraj.wadhwani Yuvraj Wadhwani

    most of the comments here make no sense whatsoever.