Google’s Mix of Hard and Soft

Yesterday Google held an event dedicated to showcasing the new line of hardware that the company is rolling out in Q4 of this year. The primary focus was to display the marriage between the new hardware direction of the company and the tried-and-true software products that have made Skyn…ahem I mean Google successful in the past.

Lets breakdown the event into its component parts, shall we?

Presentation

Some initial words come to mind when viewing the keynote: stiff and overly rehearsed. I understand that Google can’t just send anyone on stage for a keynote event this large without being prepared, but presentation moments like slow transitions, overly cooked jokes, and strange speech cadences made the event seem stale and small-fry. Don’t get me wrong the content was there, but the delivery was reminiscent of a high school public speaking class. Of all the speakers, I thought Rishi Chandra was the most compelling speaker because honestly, he sounded the most natural. For everyone else, however, I would recommend a course with my friends at Own the Room.

Pixel

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This is Google’s first foray into both the hardware and software of a mobile device. As the first phone with the Google Assistant built in, it is clear that Google is really pushing this product to be the centerpiece of their “hardware meets software” ecosystem. There are 2 versions of the phone, Pixel and Pixel XL – both with the exact same specs featuring the latest Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a base line of 32GB of storage.

One of the biggest points about Pixel during the conference was its focus on photography. Google boasted that DXOMark (an industry standard review agency for DSLRs and smartphones) rated this phone the highest ever. Ok – I’ve lost count on how many phones have stated this during their launch.

What I like:

  1. Free Unlimited Storage at full resolution for Pixel owners on the cloud
  2. The adaptive awareness of Google Assistant to use both voice and screen contextual clues to provide the best results
  3. The ease of transferring information from one device to another (even though this was possibly the least subtle way to tell your audience to switch from the iPhone to the Pixel)

What I didn’t like:

  1. Design: I’m not sold on this design just yet. Yes the case is similar to a lot of aluminum based, rounded phones on the market (cough iPhone cough), but I was expecting more out of Google’s flagship mobile device. My main design problem is that it has a huge bezel on the front without reason because the finger print reader is on the back and the navigation buttons are on-screen.
  2. Price point: You are going to have to really go all in on Pixel if you want to give it a shot at a premium price $649 unlocked.

Daydream View headset

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This is Google’s first headset for the Daydream VR platform. Daydream is a successor to Google Cardboard with a sleek, ready to wear design that I can only assume was inspired by Tim Gunn and the rest of the Project Runway crew. It has basic VR specs and a single main input in the form of a multi-touch remote.

Ok, off the bat, I’m not really sure what audience Google is trying to capture with this device. In the current market, who does this attract? All together Vive VR, Gear VR, and Oculus Rift have an incredible leg up at attracting gamers, viewers, and enterprise users. I feel like Google has this image of a chic 20 something woman in NYC carrying this beautiful device around in her purse, ready to use it with her Pixel, but frankly, this demographic doesn’t exist yet. VR is still a niche market and even more telling, it is a niche platform for development. I know that Google is trying to go for a more “portable, accessible, and approachable” take on mobile VR, but I just don’t think casual consumers are ready for this design-first product. However, I may be completely off base here. Maybe this is exactly what the market is craving and Daydream will introduce whole new populations to the world of VR, but I’m not going to hold my breath. However, I am interested in the partner program and seeing what other exclusive content the Daydream platform can offer.

Chromecast Ultra

Chromecast_HP_noAlpha.jpg

This is a streaming upgrade to the original Chromecast that supports HDR, Dolby Vision, and 4K content. What is there to say? Even with the higher price point at $69, I like this product. No brainer if you have a TV and the internet data needed to properly stream 4k content. Cord Cutters all over the country should look to get this product this holiday season.

Google Wifi

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This is Google’s take on internet routers.  We’ve seen products like this in the market already, such as Eero, but never so aggressively priced. A single router costs $129 and a 3-pack costs $299. This puppy has a wide range of capabilities from optimizing your wifi experience by automatically connecting you to your closest unit to maximizing your coverage signal wherever you are in your house. It is also paired with a companion app that lets you control  who is on the internet and the backend usage data. I have high hopes for this product and can’t wait to test it out in December.

Google Home

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This is Google’s take on a smart speaker. A direct shot at Amazon’s Echo, this product is basically the physical manifestation of the Google Assistant. While a home unit that can hear and communicate with you using a combination of far-field technology and the smart software of the assistant sounds great in theory, it’ll be interesting to see what the initial impressions and adoption of the product will look like once it launches next month.

Again, this product is very aggressively priced, coming in at the same price points as Google Wifi: A single unit for $129 and a 3-pack for $299. Given how Amazon has a better footing in this market, but how impressive Google’s new smart assistant looks, it will be interesting to see how these two products stack up and which one becomes the market leader.

The functionality to combine not only with smart home devices like Nest but also with Chromecast might just be what it takes for me to make the buy.

Overall

Overall, it was kind of a mixed bag for me. I am much more excited for what seemed like the auxiliary devices in Google’s keynote like Wifi and Chromecast Ultra than I am for Pixel or Daydream.

Picture Credits: Google

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