Fri, Oct 06, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Google launch shows hardware push

EXPANSION:From a new Pixel smartphone to laptops, wireless earbuds and home speakers, the search giant is showcasing its commitment to the hardware market


Attendees demonstrate the augmented reality integration of the new Google Pixel 2 smartphone using the demigorgon from Netflix’s Stranger Things series at a product launch event on Wednesday at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, California.

Photo: AFP

Alphabet Inc’s Google on Wednesday unveiled the second generation of its Pixel smartphone along with new voice-enabled home speakers, redoubling its commitment to the hardware business as it competes with a surge of devices from Apple Inc and Inc.

Google’s new products, including a Pixelbook laptop, wireless earbuds and a small GoPro-like camera, showcase Google-developed operating systems and services, notably the voice assistant.

That means usage of those devices should stoke the company’s core ad sales business as buyers of the hardware use Google services like search and maps.

Speaking at the launch in San Francisco, Google senior vice president of hardware Rick Osterloh said the new products “perfectly demonstrate our strategy of re-imagining hardware from the inside out.”

The Pixel 2 smartphone comes in two sizes, with comparable features, including aluminum bodies and no traditional jacks for headphones. Prices for the base model start at US$649, while the high-end version starts at US$849.

The phones will be available on Oct. 19.

Pixelbook, priced at US$999, is the first laptop powered by Google Assistant and will support Snap Inc’s Snapchat, the company said. The keyboard folds behind the screen to turn the 12.3-inch touchscreen into a tablet. It will be available in stores from Oct. 31.

Google Home Mini, one of the new speakers, is priced at US$49 in the US and would rival Amazon’s popular Echo Dot. It will be available on Oct. 19. The Home Max, with dual woofers for more powerful sound, is priced at US$399 and will be available by the end of the year.

The Pixel Buds, which are priced at US$149, will arrive in November.

Clips, a pocket-sized camera with object detection and automatic recording capabilities, “soon” goes on sale for US$249, Google said.

Videos last only a few seconds and do not contain audio.

Last month, Google expanded its hardware development capabilities by picking up a 2,000-

person smartphone engineering team at HTC Corp (宏達電) for US$1.1 billion.

“It’s pretty clear Google is serious about hardware,” said Avi Greengart, research director at consumer data firm GlobalData. “Given that there is a Pixel 2 and given the financial investment, there must be a longer-term strategic intent.”

The Pixel phones lack the brand luster and market share of similarly priced smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone or Samsung Electronics Co’s Galaxy S and Galaxy Note smartphones.

Still, the original Pixel’s camera and software drew acclaim from reviewers, many of whom expect the line to become a robust competitor at the high end of the Android smartphone market.

In the speakers market, Google’s personal-assistant lags Amazon’s Echo devices in market share, investment bank Cowen & Co said.

Rishi Chandra, vice president of product management for Google’s Home hardware unit, said in an interview that Google was being “a little bit more thoughtful” than the online shopping company.

“Amazon is taking a broad approach,” Chandra said. “We’re going to iterate until we have a good product story to tell.”

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