Sheldon PintoOct 04, 2016 10:29:53 IST
In a few hours from now, Google is set to make one its biggest hardware announcements ever. At its October 4 event, the company is expected to announce two new smartphones, a new smartphone brand, an Amazon Echo-like Google Home and the official unveiling of the Google Assistant. While the invitations and marketing collateral focuses on just the Pixel smartphones, Google is going to take a big, bold stride and also make its second attempt to step into your home.
The Pixel conundrum
Starting with the smartphones, this is a big deal because this would be the changing face of Google trying to take control of Android. Think more like Microsoft building its Surface range of tablets, besides the fact that manufacturers already have many offering out there in various shapes and sizes. This is new for Google and the company will have plenty of explaining to do on stage as to why it suddenly decided to take control and build its very own smartphones called the Pixel and the Pixel XL.
Google will need to justify to Android fans as to why it suddenly decided to take control and build its own smartphone when the philosophy has always been about openness. And it is a tough spot to be in. On one side you have Android fans who have been waiting for something like this for a really long time. On the other hand, you have manufacturers questioning why Google who has been supporting them all along suddenly decided to bring its own "perfect Android creation" to the market to compete with its allies. Google could wriggle its way out by simply stating that HTC helped manufacture the smartphone, but then again that "Made by Google" home page that has been dangling on the web for the past couple of weeks will make little sense; won't it?
Pixel should have been Google's first attempt at manufacturing its own smartphone, but plenty have indicated that at least this year, the same will be made by HTC. The true reason (or the one that I choose to believe in) is that Google always needed to exercise some amount of control on Android to prevent it from getting modified and hacked out of its existence (this is a thing). A pure example of Android with the best hardware is going to be that shining example to show what Android without manufacturer customisation and skinning is truly capable of. It may look like a copy of Apple's formula, but it may be the one to help Android succeed, even though Google may have to make a few enemies in the bargain.
Google Home and the Nexus Q
Coming to Google Home, it sounded like a revolution when it was announced at Google I/O this year. But this is in fact Google's second attempt at physically getting into your home. Not many may remember this, but its first attempt was with the orb-like, Nexus Q streaming device. It was Google's attempt at simplifying the digital media player and making it accessible from anywhere provided your owned an Android-powered smartphone. Despite its unique use case, it was priced too high in comparison to the competition and it was discontinued even before it was officially launched. I/O 2012 attendees received their Nexus Qs and those who had pre-ordered them Google shipped the device for free.
So is Google Home the direct successor to the Nexus Q? That's a big no! Home is Google's attempt to step into your living room, but it comes much after the Amazon Echo, a voice based digital assistant. So technically Google Home is Google's answer to the Amazon Echo.
Its second attempt however has some potential and this because it is powered by Google Assistant, the company's smarter Google Now upgrade. Assistant is currently available only on Google Home and via Allo on Android devices. But it is set in a smarter and solid frame work. This is because Google already knows what you are looking for, what you do and what you are going to do next (Calendar). As creepy as this may sound, it knows your every move via your smartphone, and Allo and the Assistant works with this data. The end result is a voice assistant that understands natural language processing and can get things done for you. The only difference between Google Home and Allo is that Google Assistant can understand voice commands and respond via Home. On your smartphone, it is currently only available as a bot-like entity that you will have to type to chat with.
What Analysts think
Julie Ask, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester had plenty to comment about the upcoming launch. “The launch of Google Home with Google Assistant uplevels Google’s play as a virtual assistant and is a natural extension of Google’s path towards becoming the agent that sits between brands and their customers. The ‘holy grail’ of becoming a consumer’s virtual assistant will be hard for Google to obtain, but holds unprecedented business value if Google achieves this goal."
"Google faces an uphill battle to succeed with both Google Home or Allo because it does not have a strong track record of selling much of anything direct to consumers at scale. Yes, Google sold some consumer electronics with a few of its own phones and Glass. Platforms like Allo become essential when they have hundreds of millions of daily active users. The year 2016 is late to be starting with 0.”
She concludes, "Both Home and Allo along with Google Assistant are essential to Google’s portfolio and strength as a mobile power player longer term. Google needs to succeed here.”
At the same time, there is another minor problem that comes with Google Home. Fatemeh Khatibloo, Principal Analyst, on consumer privacy and identity said that it could cause plenty of problems in your personal life. "The difference with this being an in-home device v. Google Now is the problem of householding. If there are multiple users of Google Now in a home, Google will have to do a lot of work to prioritize, suppress, manage how it makes recommendations. Imagine if she spoke a calendar reminder aloud that caused a conflict in the home.”
So you see Google is playing catch up. This is a big launch and the three products mentioned above do mean a lot to Google because it lays the foundation of many things to come.
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