In an interview over at Bloomberg , it's revealed that Google is taking an approach much closer to that of partners like Samsung. For instance, Android engineer David Burke let slip that the company has designed a product roadmap that stretches years into the future. Burke himself concedes that he's been playing with a Google-branded handset that won't debut until Fall 2017.
It's not just the designs of the hardware that Google is working on, either, since the company is now building its own supply chin. The company used HTC to assemble the Pixel phones with off-the-shelf components, but that won't be the situation in future. Instead, executives claim that they'll look to build their own custom silicon, pushing out suppliers like Qualcomm. As much as it'll annoy people to see the comparison, it does seem as if Google's in-house phone arm is cribbing from Apple's business playbook.
In the piece, Google makes assurances that its own mobile division will be treated equally to other manufacturers. For instance, there is a "firewall" between the hardware and Android divisions so that Osterloh and his team can't peek at what Samsung and LG, amongst others, are working on. The company says that every manufacturer will be treated the same, although it's telling that the Pixels will be the first to get Android 7.1 and other new Google features.
It's worth mentioning that we've been down this road before, both with Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility and Microsoft's purchase of Nokia. Both companies had previously acted as an enabler, providing software and support to their partners in the hardware space. Google, cannily, seemed to make it clear that the Motorola deal was more of a business decision (for patents) than an attempt to out-muscle its partners.
Microsoft, on the other hand, was treated like a pariah by mobile device manufacturers who saw that they'd be treated as second-class citizens. When Microsoft went on to design and build Surface tablets, it caused further consternation and a very public war of words with executives at other companies. It remains to be seen if Google's trusted cohort of partners will feel similarly aggrieved, but we can imagine Samsung wondering ifTizen isn't worth putting on a Galaxy S handset. We also know that Huawei has already rebuffed Google's Pixel phone strategy as it tries to assert its own dominance.
Amusingly, a 2011Engadget editorial on the Motorola - Google deal remarked that we should "check back in three years and see if Motorola hasn't become Google's de-facto mobile division." That, obviously, didn't happen, although the fact that the former head of Motorola is running Google's in-house mobile division a few years after means that we're gonna claim partial credit.
If you needed any further evidence as to where Google sees its future, simply flip the Pixel over and look at the back. At the bottom you'll find the phrase "Made by Google," with no reference at all for themoribund HTC, which is simply a contract manufacturer for Google like Foxconn is for so many others.
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