Google ended up announcing two flagship smartphones called the Pixel, a smart Wi-Fi and AI infused speaker called the Home, a new VR headset called Daydream View, a smart Wi-Fi router and a new generation of its Chromecast HDMI dongle.
This couldn’t have come at a worse time for Samsung as it is reeling from the climatic disaster that the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone has turned into.
Hardware wise Google has solid offerings. These aren’t wildly innovative to be honest from a hardware perspective. The phones particularly don’t bring anything new to the table on the hardware side of things, but it is the software where things change.
Google is betting big on an Applesque strategy where it wants to harness the power of its artificial intelligence know how with an interplay of hardware and software.
That’s why Google is building its own hardware so it can leverage its AI to the fullest believes the next stage in computing.
At the event Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai put this shift succinctly. “We’re moving from a mobile first world, to an AI first world,” he said.
It also faces challenges from different governments which threaten its current cash cow search advertising. Google preloads its cloud services on most Android phones and the European Commission is investigating it for anti-trust practices.
That’s why it believes it needs to build hardware of its own as only Samsung is currently a profitable player in the Android space when it comes down to hardware. Google believes it does better with a full ecosystem of products which are vertically integrated with its software.
But this also means it threatens it strikes Samsung at its heart.
Samsung is going through perhaps the most embarrassing time in the history of its smartphone business with the Galaxy Note 7 recall which many believed had the goods to take the fight to Apple. And here comes the provider of its operating system firing a shot by the side of its bow claiming that now it makes the best Android phone in the world which could be the best out there.
This will anger and worry Samsung more than Apple. In the long run this could affect Apple but in the shorter run, it will be Apple that’s affected.
Moreover, in the universe of Android smartphones, Samsung is the most profitable player and few other like Huawei and Lenovo make good money, but mostly companies have been bleeding cash. These companies too now will be competing with the maker of their smartphone’s operating system knowing fully well its hardware division gets special access. Even if that’s not the case, there will be fears.
But then there’s more. For instance, Pixel phone users will get unlimited full resolution photo and video back-ups on the Google Photos service. This is insane considering Google says this also applies to 4k video.
The Google Assistant is so far being exclusively offered on this phone too. This is a sign that Google is offering something better to the consumers than what its partners are.
Google also fired shots against Samsung in the VR space. It deliberately pitched the Daydream View as a comfortable VR headset – the anti-gadget which was made out of cloth.
Samsung’s Gear VR is one of the most popular VR headsets in the market but it is cumbersome to use and one must connect the phone using USB Type C. Google has made Daydream View out of cloth to make it comfortable and it tethers wirelessly with the phone. It also has a cool controller which can also be cradled in the headset.
More importantly, it is bringing in a ton of content partners and has also optimised the entirety of YouTube to be compatible with it. Many games and apps are also incoming.
At $79 it is also more affordable than most VR headsets in the market. This should have Samsung rattled.
Going beyond mobile
It gets worse. Google is entering home audio space with the smart speaker – Google Home. It is tiny, discrete and Google claims great audio quality. It can be daisy chained like Sonos speaker systems and it also has the Google Assistant baked in so that you can ask it questions and it will harness power of Google to answer your questions.
Google is also integrating with home automation systems and bringing its own company Nest into the picture. Using these speakers, people will also control things like the Chromecast too and parse information on to the phones.
An example showed by Google’s Rishi Chandra showed you could ask it to make a to-do list for grocery shopping and by the time you reached the store you could summon the assistant on your phone to present that list.
This is crazy stuff, exactly the type of stuff you’d imagine watching on Star Trek and the fictional LCARS computer system.
The new Chromecast is also now supporting HDR video, 4K video and Dolby vision and Google has made its performance faster across the board.
There’s also the new Wi-Fi system called simply Google WiFi a mesh Wi-Fi system as three can be connected together to eliminate dead-zones in a house. It is also optimised it for best network performance and it has smarts so that you control which device is connected to it wirelessly with an app and perhaps disable them too.
The culmination of this Apple like strategy is Google is a hardware company. But this doesn’t mean it will compete with Apple head on in round one. For it will take years and proven track record because people buy Apple’s gadgets because they are known to be premium and they just work with no hassles.
Chances are Google will strike at the heart of Samsung one it biggest partners considering the loss of faith the battery exploding issues in its latest flagship phones have caused. It will either piss off the South Korean giant or rattle it, or maybe both.