On Google and Consumer Hardware

Ian Betteridge:

In fact, Google has independently designed two pieces of hardware: The Chromebook Pixel and Nexus Q. But that, I think, makes John’s point stronger. Both the Pixel and Q were expensive, high-end pieces of hardware which could never have scaled to selling tens of millions of units. The Pixel was (and is) effectively a flagship demonstrator the potential for Chromebooks; and the Nexus Q was a unique media device which, because of its design, cost about four times as much as its competition.

The Q was a joke — it never even shipped. The Pixel is a good example, though. It’s meant to be nice, a genuinely high-quality Chromebook. But it had no chance of mass market success, if only because of its price.

This Nest acquisition makes me think Google didn’t want these things to be jokes. That they want to make devices that tens of millions of people will buy and use in the way that they buy and use Apple devices. It will be interesting to see whether all of Google’s consumer electronics efforts go under the Nest/Fadell umbrella, or, if “Google” will keep introducing devices on its own, outside of Nest.

Which in turn brings us back to the notion that “Google is getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at web services.” Perhaps a better way to put that is that Google is getting better at what Apple is best at faster than Apple is getting better at what Google is best at. I don’t necessarily believe that, but acquiring Nest and Tony Fadell certainly makes for a stronger case.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014