On October 4th, Google announced eight new hardware products. Two versions of the Pixel 2, a new Daydream VR headset, two new Google Home speakers, an AI camera called Google Clips, AI-enhanced headphones called Pixel Buds, and the Pixelbook laptop. It was a giant statement from a giant company that it is very serious about making hardware in many different categories.
So we dug in, with exclusive interviews with CEO Sundar Pichai and hardware chief Rick Osterloh, first looks at everything, extensive analysis, and videos of it all.
All of Google’s devices are infused — if not inspired — by artificial intelligence, and so we examined what that means for the future of computing. From the innovative camera on the Pixel 2 to the real-time, intelligent sound of the Google Home Max; this is the inside story of Google’s October 2017 hardware event, as only The Verge can tell it.
Rick Osterloh has been on the job as the senior vice president of hardware at Google for just over 17 months now. In that time, he's had to repeatedly answer the same questions from reporters like me: just how serious is Google about making its own hardware? Is it a hobby or is it going to genuinely affect Google's financial bottom line? Is the company sure it won't repeat the same mistakes it made with its ill-fated Motorola acquisition and subsequent sale years ago?Read Article >
He's heard it all before: Osterloh was actually president of Motorola for a time under Google. In an hour-long interview, his answers to those questions haven't changed since last April. They might not stop us from asking them over and over, but the consistency of the answers is important. And if there was any doubt about Google's ambitions in hardware, the company definitively put it to rest by acquiring 2,000 or so phone engineers from HTC last month, along with some IP and equipment.
Oct 4, 2017
The first thing I noticed about Google’s new Daydream View VR headset is the pink controller.Read Article >
In the original View, all plastic parts were beige or gray, even if you got the model wrapped with rich crimson fabric. Now, they’re coordinated: if you buy the colorful “Coral” edition, you’ll get a coral remote, too. It’s not a big change, but it’s emblematic of Google’s overall goal: re-creating last year’s carefully engineered mobile headset, undoing a few mistakes, and making its individual parts a little nicer.
Chromebooks mostly exist in two camps. The first is the education market, where an entire generation of students have been using cheap, low-end laptops to get their schoolwork done. The second camp is the direct-to-consumer market, where manufacturers like Samsung and Asus have been introducing higher-end models that creep up into the $500 range, but don't have the power or flexibility of a proper Windows or Mac laptop.Read Article >
Now, for the first time since Google discontinued the Chromebook Pixel last year, it’s back in the top end of the market with the Pixelbook, a laptop that starts at $999 and can be priced all the way up to $1,649. And if you want, you can spend $99 more on the Pixelbook Pen, a stylus designed specifically for this laptop.
Not 10 minutes after Amazon's surprise announcement of new Echo devices last week, I walked into a small meeting room in Google's Mountain View headquarters to hear about the new Google Home Mini and Google Home Max.Read Article >
If there was ever a sign that Google had a big hill to climb to stay competitive in home speakers, this was it. But Rishi Chandra, Google’s GM of Home products, was characteristically relaxed about the whole thing, even joking about it. His take on Amazon's strategy of flooding the zone with so many different kinds of Echo speakers? "It only shows we're in the early stages of this area, let's just say that. There are different approaches."
Google is making wireless headphones that are specifically designed to be the first and best option for people who buy Google phones — just like AirPods are designed for iPhones.Read Article >
The new Pixel Buds borrow a lot of ideas from Apple's AirPods: they have a new, easier way to pair with your phone, they come in a little battery case, they use touch controls, and they have tight integration with an intelligent assistant. They're also priced exactly the same, at $159, and are coming out in November.
Unbeknownst to me, at the very moment on Monday morning when I was asking Google CEO Sundar Pichai about the biggest ethical concern for AI today, Google's algorithms were promoting misinformation about the Las Vegas shooting.Read Article >
I was asking in the context of the aftermath of the 2016 election and the misinformation that companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google were found to have spread. Pichai, I found out later, had a rough idea that something was going wrong with one of his algorithms as we were speaking. So his answer, I think it's fair to say, also serves as a response to the widespread criticisms the company faced in the days after the shooting.
You know what a digital camera is. It's a lens and a sensor, with a display to see what you're looking at, and a button to take the picture. Google Clips is a camera, but it only has some of those parts. There's no display. There’s a shutter button, but it's completely optional to use. Instead, it takes pictures for you, using machine learning to recognize and learn faces and look for interesting moments to record.Read Article >
It took me a while to wrap my head around Google Clips. It didn't land for me until Eva Snee, the user experience lead for the camera, told me a story about a little moving photo I was looking at. To me, it was just a couple of toddlers. To Snee, it was something very different.
For a majority of the 10 years smartphones have been mainstream, phone makers have been copying each other’s designs. It's not easy to differentiate when all you really have is a slab of glass and a handful of variables like materials, camera, ports, and bezels to work with. It's only recently that we've been able to suss out some genuine schools of design thought, and genuinely competing philosophies of phone design are only beginning to emerge.Read Article >
That’s why the designs for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are remarkable: in its second year of making phone hardware, Google is establishing an aesthetic that isn't just consistent, but is distinct from what both Apple and Samsung are doing. Google hardware is all about pragmatism and approachability.