A Hardware act to follow

How tech innovation is turning to homes

“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” declared Steve Jobs to a rapturous audience 10 years ago. The launch of the iPhone established Apple as a long-reigning champion of hardware and software integration in mobile devices. This week we explore the next generation of tech innovation as, after a decade of mobile advancements, Google and other players have applied this integration to the home.

Google hard at work

This week, Google released a glut of new hardware products. They range from new Google home devices to an updated Google Daydream View VR Headset – and even some exciting Pixel Buds earphones that translate speech in real time. Having been the sultans of software development, Google’s move into hardware is an intriguing one, demonstrating, as Wired notes, the Apple-esque integration strategy now underpinning Google’s decision-making.

The signs have been there for a while. Google’s purchase of intellectual property and sub-divisions of HTC last month has been called an acqui-hire by analysts, a clear play for 2,000 engineers and some manoeuvrability. As senior analyst at Bloomberg Jitndra Waral notes, “Google essentially gets more control over its hardware design, it can help them accelerate innovation with its own products”. They are moving into a position to flexibly produce hardware, vertically integrating a la Apple.

 An AI age?

The driving factor behind Google’s increasing focus on hardware is the need to enable consumers to access its expanding range of voice assistant and AI services. Unlike mobile devices, which have been at the core of Apple’s strategy, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai believes Artificial Intelligence (AI) is essential to the future of Google. We are living in an “AI age”, notes the FT, where new automated technologies will seep into our daily lives: from parking our cars to learning an instrument. While Google has operated the most popular search engine for many years, it is far away from catching up with Apple’s dominance in consumers’ pockets and needs to circumvent this position with their own access points.

Through the lens of home and hardware, artificial intelligence has these access points. The iPhone became the digital hub of modern life, notes Stratechery’s Ben Thompson, and Google has the opportunity to create an Assistant, both virtual and physical, powered by AI we can’t live without. Arriving alongside a range of updated Amazon Echo/Alexa products and Apple’s 4K Apple TV, these aren’t merely toys for the home – they are steps toward inter-connectivity, the nucleus of AI emanating a concentric circle of connected living. And with smart fridges, smart sofas, and smart microwaves becoming a reality, Google is positioning itself to capitalise on this new hardware revolution.

A hardware act to follow

Whilst its ambitious hardware plans remain a small part of Google, we will certainly see this area develop in the next five years, as The Verge states. And how exciting this is. Here at MTM, we are encouraged by the prospects of living in an age of artificial intelligence and connected devices, in a new marrying of software and hardware. A world where the banalities of life and our necessary tasks are managed by a super-smart assistant; turning our ovens on and visually summarising the crucial news. We might even start seeing a Google Home Store around the corner selling this decade’s revolutionary products: the furniture of the future.

~

As always, if any of our findings have piqued your interest, please do get in touch.

About Alex Milne Turner

Alex joined us in November and has worked across both the research and strategy teams, not quite being able to make up his mind. Alex is enthusiastic about MTM, and media in general, and about most other things. He has previously worked in television production and was involved with a lot of theatre at university, constantly rebelling against his degree in Philosophy, Politics & Economics.