Google's focus on hardware is weakening amid a major employee shift, with a new report claiming dozens of workers involved in the firm's laptop (Chromebook) and tablet projects were recently told to find new units and assignments.
The effort is said to have affected both engineers and project managers at the company's "Create" arm which previously delivered the Pixelbook series of Chromebooks and the recently launched Pixel Slate tablets. Most employees at the unit now deemed surplus to requirements were asked to seek temporary roles on other projects, which could mean the shift isn't meant to last or is simply a signal that the company's management will soon take it upon themselves to reassign them.
The Create unit has "a bunch of stuff in the works," according to one person close to Alphabet's subsidiary who claims the mini-restructuring endeavor will surely affect Google's hardware plans in the near term, even assuming the change is undone soon, which seems unlikely.
Nearly three years back, Google established its hardware division as a unified arm under the leadership of Rick Osterloh. Since then, the division delivered a number of devices but none of them achieved significant commercial success. One somewhat surprising characteristic shared by virtually all of its creations was their price point – everything from the Pixelbook to the Pixel Slate is a rather expensive affair, pitched as an ultra-premium product from a seasoned consumer electronics manufacturer.
Even actual industry veterans have trouble with selling expensive gear, particularly Chromebooks seeing how one of the original selling points of the Chrome OS ecosystem was its accessibility and value-oriented nature. What changed in the meantime is unclear but it seems the Create unit may have gotten a bit lost along the way and the Mountain View, California-based Internet juggernaut is now seeking to reset some of its endeavors in the electronics segment.
While the newly reported restructuring doesn't guarantee certain hardware projects at Google have been canned, that's an almost unavoidable consequence of the development, according to insider claims.
Pixelbook 2 getting canceled… maybe
The last iteration of Google's annual hardware event was widely expected to see the introduction of the Pixelbook 2 but that didn't come to pass. Instead, the firm pivoted around to Chrome OS tablets and smart displays, with that move not yielding much success either so far.
Given how the Pixelbook range itself is far from best-selling status, it's quite possible Google is canning the concept of investing in luxurious Chromebooks, at least for the time being. The product line also isn't compatible with most other recent Chrome OS efforts from Google which are primarily geared toward the education segment and value-oriented devices, as well as upping the ante in the portability segment, which is what prompted the firm's move to tablets.
All things considered, none of Google's hardware bets paid of so far but the most high-profile of them all appears to be safe for the time being. In other words, not only is the Pixel 4 series of Android flagships expected to launch this fall but the product family is actually widely rumored to be expanding to mid-rangers in the coming weeks as the Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 XL Lite are both said to be on their way, not to mention the fact Google is now understood to be diversifying even further and expanding its hardware ambitions to Pixel-branded wearables.
So, shuttering tablet and laptop projects certainly sends a confusing message to both consumer and investors in regards to what the conglomerate actually wants to do in the hardware sector, assuming it can even answer that question right now.