So what do Google’s product launches mean? Experts give the low down on the search giant’s tech innovations

Industry leaders have run the rule over Google’s raft of hardware launches as the search giant looks to take the technology battle to Apple and Samsung.


We asked Streaker chief technology director James Bush, Group M Australia head of mobile Venessa Hunt, and founder of mobile agency Millipede Wil Monte for their views on how and why Google has moved into the space – and just how good are the products?

Why is Google interested in getting into the tech space by creating its own devices?

Hunt: Google moving into hardware creation isn’t new. What is different this time around is the positioning and they aren’t just stopping at phones, but moving into a IoT (internet of things) and connected homes.

The Pixel will be branded exclusively as a Google phone. In previous years, Google hardware has been packaged and co-branded with the manufacturing partner of that year. This meant a less effective brand proposition for Google with ‘Nexus’ as the market facing hardware brand.

Vanessa Hunt

Hunt: “Google can bring uses to a consumer outside their pocket”

Over the past few years we have seen other companies such as Facebook and Amazon release smartphones with little success — But Google has an unprecedented advantage in that the Android operating system is used by Samsung, Huawei, HTC and dozens of other manufacturers and whilst this meant Google didn’t have control of the devices itself, they are very well established in the smartphone game.

Google needs to adapt to a technology landscape that is currently dominated by mobile but, more importantly, a market where the growth areas are other connected hardware.

Moving into hardware that extends beyond the mobile device such as VR headsets and in-home devices, means that Google can bring uses to a consumer outside their pocket, and create meaningful connection between real world moment and technology.

Bush: I don’t think this is specifically about Google getting into hardware. Rather, this is about getting people to start taking advantage of the AI technologies at the company’s core.

Each of the products is built and positioned around its advancements in AI.

Monte: Google have been in the tech space for a while; however, generally the hardware has been partner branded.

The push has been to get the Android OS onto as many devices as possible and Google products into the hands and homes of consumers.

It’s difficult to say why Google has dropped their co-branded approach to hardware.

However in the phone realm it could be due to the difficulty that Google has had with getting Android OEMs to release their Android updates and patches.

Wil Monte

Monte: “The move to remove co-branding is to offer a coherent Google product line for a customer’s Android ecosystem – much like we’re used to seeing with Apple”

The move to remove co-branding on the rest of their hardware is to offer a coherent Google product line for a customer’s Android ecosystem – much like we’re used to seeing with Apple.

Do any of these new announcements move their sectors along?

Bush: It will drive adoption of Google products and services. Creating a broader ecosystem between physical and digital is a no-brainer. Personally, would I try Youtube Red on my laptop? No. Would I try Youtube Red as a part of the connected home device, yes.

Hunt: The world of virtual reality has some of the most exciting opportunities over the next few years. It will change the way we consume content, how we socialise and how brands interact with customers.

Historically, VR headsets held a high price-point, with brands like Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. The Samsung Gear VR created a new entry point for VR and the promise to bring it into mainstream.

However, it still required a thousand dollar phone to use it. So whilst it opened up a new market (outside of gaming and tech) it still wasn’t an experience open to everyone.

Google has bought in a cheaper price-point and a slightly cheaper handset, so at first it won’t be a game changer, but they are suggesting that all Android handsets that support Daydream in the future will work with the Daydream View – which could open the experience to many more people.


What’s important to note is that not all VR is equal – it’s like saying ‘all websites are the same’.  It’s a way to consume content – but you may want to use it for a million reasons. You can’t expect the same experience from a $69 headset as one that is $1,500.

Monte: It’s currently rare now to get an announcement that signals a huge leap forward. Rather we’re seeing the big tech companies either iterating on technology that’s already out, or pushing into an established field to extend the reach of their ecosystem. An exciting advancement is the fast charging.

Battery technology advancement has plateaued remarkably in that we are currently getting the most lifespan we can relative to the size of the battery.

The ability to fast-charge means that while we don’t get more ‘life’ out of the battery it will be back up and running much quicker…which will feel like a longer life.

What’s in them for marketers?

Hunt: The rise in VR will create a move to immersive advertising. In the past we had one-way advertising – with brands talking to (and often yelling at) consumers.

With the rise of social and personalised and dynamic advertising we have grown closer to two-way marketing. However, we are about to enter a different time in advertising and communication where people want to ‘feel’ what it’s like to experience a brand.

Show me what it’s like to drive an Audi before I test drive one, let me feel what it’s like to walk on a Hawaiian beach before you ask me to book a flight there.  I want to actually understand a brand and feel a connection to it before I act.

Artificial intelligence technology that consumers can converse with, allowing them to go without keyboards (and auto-complete) to access online information and make purchases will challenge the traditional search model, adding in a very real place for voice search. But voice search in context – e.g. searching in the home versus in a store.

Monte: AI and data is king. The opening statement in saying the world is moving from ‘mobile-first’ to ‘AI first’ is a huge statement, but an obvious one.

The digital assistants are getting incredibly powerful from the data that we’re feeding them from every device, every day.

Marketers need to make sure their brands and products are present and active in all the touch points this data is scraped from.

Will the VR device make that technology more mainstream?

Bush: I think Google are pushing mobile VR too hard, too early. In general, I don’t think consumers are impressed.

James Bush

Bush: “I think Google are pushing mobile VR too hard, too early”

Yes, there are great experiences out there but they are few and far between. The technology needs special tracking at higher resolutions before mainstream adoption happens.

Monte: It more provides an excellent iteration on its nearest competitor. This is a more refined and purposeful device for the ‘casual’ VR audience. These people like to play with VR; however, they aren’t willing to make the investment to the next tier of VR hardware.

Google have considered this audience each step of the way from the design (which looks like a comfortable sleeping mask) to the minimal effort required to connect the two devices.

Could Google do an ad-funded model for some of these – for example, to Home device?

Bush: I guess they could. It’d be an interesting take, given Google Home comes with a Youtube Red subscription.

Hunt: Of course they could – but the answer is, should they and when?

Adding an ad-funded business model too early could dampen the uptake of such personal technology. Not because of ads being in the home (as they already are) but if done wrong, and not balanced – we could halt the growth of great tech.

We have seen a different reaction to mobile advertising (in comparison with things such as TV and OOH) because of the personal nature of a mobile device. Add in someone’s home, AI or VR and those personal aspects are heightened. Relevancy will be key to getting it right.

However, have they set themselves up for a very unique advertising opportunity? Absolutely.

Monte: We expect this is already happening in search and service recommendations that are being fed back to the users.

What are the implications for AI and assistants?

Hunt: An easier more organised life? Haha!

The real advantage of AI is the ability to ingest and analyse massive volumes of data to inform decisions. This should create huge efficiencies in all industries. However the fear of job loss and social impact is one that needs great education and assurance.

The societal implications and associated financial opportunities and efficiencies, are a two-way street.

Human heavy-lifting will be reduced – perhaps with job implications – but economic efficiencies which should reduce the cost of living and increase the quality. Some very big picture thinking to be done here.

Does this cement Google as the biggest player in terms of detailed data on its users?

Monte: It’s more devices running Google’s platforms, even to the wireless routers. Google will soon be able to pinpoint you pretty comfortably wherever you are in your own home. It’s a scary thought, but one that’s hard to avoid.

Instead of worrying about it, just say ‘Okay, Google: show me some cat videos’ and go about your day.

Bush: Was that ever in doubt?


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