Developing hardware products is difficult. It always costs more than planned, and it usually takes a lot more time than software. If you make a mistake or it doesn’t sell, you can be stuck with millions of dollars in parts you can’t use. Software, on the other hand, is simply written code that can easily be changed or discarded, losing just the time it took to write it.
Yet Google, one of the world’s most successful software companies, desperately wants to build hardware and has spent billions trying for nearly five years to emulate Apple’s success.
They bought Nest from the inventor of the wireless thermostat. They bought Motorola and developed their own phones, called The Pixel, only to see minuscule sales. After selling Motorola to Lenovo, they just bought HTC, the Taiwanese-based cellphone manufacturer.
And today they introduced an entire line of new hardware products, from phones to computers to cameras to earbuds. While some are Apple look-alikes, many are new and imaginative.
Here’s a rundown:
Pixelbook: a $1000 Chromebook notebook computer with a built-in Google Assistant, Google’s speech-activated competitor to Apple’s Siri. Chromebooks use an operating system based on the Chrome browser and rely on apps in the cloud and Android apps on the device.
Two new Google Home standalone devices: A small one ($49) and a high-end version ($399). These are devices with speakers that compete with Amazon’s Echo to play music on demand as well as performing hundreds of other actions using voice commands.
[On a side note, The New York Times offered new subscribers a free $129 Google Home with a one-year subscription. Once you subscribed, the Times provided a redemption code to use at Google’s online store. But apparently, it was not well thought out. Participants flocked to the site and some discovered it was possible to buy your Google Home and then cancel your subscription.
According to The Verge,“The NYT has pulled the Google Home offer after customers realized they could get an offer code then cancel the subscription. It later forced readers to commit to a full year subscription to qualify for the deal. So either supply was very limited, or the rollout didn’t work as planned.”
A search for this offering on the NYT website comes up empty.]
The Pixel 2 ($649) and the Pixel 2 XL ($849) Android phones: The first, built by HTC, has a 5-inch display. The second from LG is six inches. These smartphones have superb cameras, make excellent use of Google’s Assistant. They have built-in artificial intelligent software and Google Lens, a visual search engine that can recognize objects and even read text in photos. They offer the best Android experience with no additional annoying software installed by the carriers. They also get the latest software upgrades before any other Android phones. Unfortunately, they wanted to be so much like Apple that they removed the headphone jack. They are available from Verizon and an unlocked version that works on all carriers is available from Google.
Google Clips: A tiny little camera for capturing video. Simply place it anywhere and it will remotely record. According to Google, it’s designed for capturing those “spontaneous moments.” A little creepy? $249.
Pixel Buds: Wireless Bluetooth earbuds similar to Apple’s AirPods, but with a wire connecting the two parts. One of the niftiest features is its ability to use Google Assistant to perform real-time translations into your ear. $159.
Goggle’s lineup is impressive, but they still have a lot of work to do to provide better support for their products, It’s so difficult to find a support phone number that private sites have popped up claiming to be Google support, only to charge you huge fees.