Google shocked everyone who saw this I/O 2022 Keynote This week saw the launch of a slew of Pixel devices set to debut at next year’s quintessential hardware-free developer event. While I’m excited to see what a fully realized Pixel ecosystem looks like, I can’t help but wonder what impact it might have on the broader Android market.
Google has been in the hardware business for some time, well over a decade if you count the Nexus line, which launched in January 2010. However, things picked up with the acquisitions of Motorola and Nest in 2011 and 2014, respectively. While the former hasn’t panned out as many likely hoped, Rick Osterloh, Google’s SVP of Devices and Services, former President and COO of Motorola, has been an integral part of the company’s hardware efforts.
Between the Pixel phones, Pixel Buds, and the Nest family of products, you could argue that Google is overwhelmed, but with the addition of a Pixel watch and Pixel tablet sometime next year, it’s jumping in at the deep end. The question is whether Google can pull off an elegant dive that doesn’t cause too many ripples in the larger Android ecosystem, or a full cannonball.
Here’s a closer look at what Google has planned and what it could mean for Android.
Experience the power of a fully armed and operational pixel ecosystem
When Google launched the original Pixel in 2016, it was very well received by reviewers but wasn’t a huge commercial success. This was a consistent theme for the lineup until the launch of the cheaper Pixel A series, and now it’s finally a flagship where Google announced that the Pixel 6 has already outperformed the Pixel 4 and Pixel 5 combined.
The point is that the Pixel has never been a serious threat to market share from other Android manufacturers like Samsung or Motorola. Some of the Pixel-exclusive features that Google has offered with its in-house phones, such as Unfortunately, now the free unlimited photo and video storage is goneand most recently, impressive camera features like Magic Eraser and Face Unblur weren’t anything the Android competitors would worry about.
With this week’s announcements, that dynamic could shift. Currently, even the most die-hard Pixel fan can only rely on the brand to fulfill their phone and earbud needs. If they were in the market for a tablet or smartwatch, they had to look elsewhere. This, in turn, opens up the opportunity for the buyer to look at the rest of the other manufacturer’s lineup, as everyone seems to have learned from Apple’s “ecosystem is king” mantra.
Ambient computing, or the idea that your network of devices should essentially get out of your way while ensuring you always have what you need, was a key theme of Pixel announcements during the keynote, with Google calling it “better together.” “. While opinions on Apple’s products may vary, it’s hard to deny that the company has the most cohesive ecosystem of products that work best when a user is fully engaged. Samsung has certainly been working toward the same goal across its lineup, but while Samsung works closely with Google, it ultimately doesn’t have complete control over its software destiny.
Google has been pushing this idea since at least 2019 and has shown itself in software like Fast Pair that allows quick and easy connections between devices without complications. And in particular, this isn’t something that Google limits to its own products; Fast Pair is available to everyone. However, if Google hits its release dates, it will have a fully functioning ecosystem by the end of 2023. Plus, it might keep some of the best integrations for itself to create a Google version of that walled-garden utopia that Apple fans love.
Discussions about “better together” and the focus on creating a ubiquitous network of devices for users kicked off the Google Devices section of the presentation. Google highlighted a number of its partners during the keynote, but we didn’t get anything close to them Wear OS powered by Samsung moment from I/O 2021.
Be careful not to choke on your aspirations
It’s unfortunate that I landed on two quotes from the dark side, but I’ll stick with it. While there’s a possibility that Google’s hardware ecosystem could alienate some Android manufacturers, there are a few key reasons why I don’t think that’s a huge problem ultimately — even if Google’s new products are big commercial ones To be successful.
The main reason is that it’s not in Google’s best interest. Google is primarily an advertising company. It’s reaping far more profit from the billions of non-Pixel devices running Android than it could hope for even from the most successful projections for the Pixel ecosystem’s panacea I’ve painted above. This is essentially the same reason I find most claims about Google’s endangering of user privacy disingenuous, as it would fundamentally destroy Google’s entire business model if it broke the trust of its users.
So that has to do with Google taking its Android ball and going home, but looking at the other side of the coin, where would other Android manufacturers go? We’ve seen efforts by Samsung, Huawei, and others to develop their own operating system, and they’ve generally failed. If Samsung can’t pull it off, it’s safe to say that none of the other Android manufacturers can. Given that it’s hard to imagine what Google would have to do to force one, let alone every other Android maker to try to go anywhere else.
Coming back to the original question I captioned: could the pixel ecosystem be the death of Android as we know it? Yes, just not in the sense that it kills them, but fundamentally changes them. I hope that Google’s hardware ecosystem will help strengthen some of the areas of Android that have historically been weak, tablets and wearables, and that the underlying software that makes Pixel devices “better together” extends to Android , instead of just using Google. If Google can pull this off, the next few years in the mobile world will be a lot more interesting.