Column: With the launch of Pixel 2, Google sticks to new strategy

Last year, Google committed to building its own hardware to show the best of Android, and it doubled down last week with a new device launch.

Chief executive of google Sundar Pichai. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Solomon Davis is a sophomore journalism major at MU. He is an opinions columnist who writes about technology for The Maneater.

Google held its Google Event on Oct. 4, where the company launched its newest family of devices for 2017. Among the devices were the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, the refresh of the Pixel line that Google started just last year.

When Google announced the Pixel last year, it was quite the departure for the 19-year-old company. Ten years ago, when Google started using Android, it shaped the software but left hardware to its partners. But in 2010 the company began a new adventure with the launch of the Nexus One.

The Nexus line was a partnership between Google and a different manufacturer for each phone in the line. The Nexus One was the first phone; it was manufactured by HTC and used the Android software in a partnership with Google. The Nexus phones were guaranteed to receive the newest updates first and were a bloat-free experience. Software bloat is where carriers load apps and games and other pointless programs onto a phone that you bought through them, with bloat-free being something you did not get on any other Android phones. Most importantly, the devices ran on stock Android, with little-to-no customization, which was a selling point to consumers looking for simplicity.

In 2016, instead of launching a new Nexus device, Google pivoted to launch Pixel, which the company marketed as the first phone ever by Google. To Google, the Pixel would show off the true power of Android. Now that Google controlled the hardware on top of the software, it could build devices that would highlight what the Android experience should be like for everyone, as well as give the company more control of the platform.

What made Apple devices so popular is the fact that the company controls both the hardware and software of its devices. For years, Apple has made it known that controlling both allows it to do wonders even without the fanciest of specifications. You can have fantastic hardware, but if the software is below optimal, it can lead to complications that are avoided when both work and are created together.

What Google did in 2016 is what I refer to as the “Apple effect,” a trend in the technology world as of late: Companies that traditionally work in software have started to work in hardware.

Take Microsoft, for example. For the longest period, the company created and sold the Windows operating system to vendors who then loaded that software onto a computer and sold it under their own brand, including Dell, Samsung and HP.

In 2012, Microsoft, much to the dismay of its PC partners, launched the Microsoft Surface. The Surface brought together the Windows software now optimized for touch and tablet devices, as well as marking the foray into manufacturing devices. Microsoft then led the industry change on what a PC experience was, and so far, it has paid off. Google has done the same thing. Through the launch of Pixel, it set the narrative of what a perfect Android phone can be.

The Apple effect has worked well for Apple, and so far Google and Microsoft have found tremendous success with the Pixel and the Surface devices. Consumers have come to love the devices, but most importantly, the devices have set the narrative of what software and hardware can do when optimized completely together.

For Android, it has probably led to a revival that will benefit Google for years to come.

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