6 months after Pixel 2 launch, Google has nothing to say of its success — but hardware is a clear focus
Other parts of the hardware and operating system business take the spotlight instead.
Alphabet just released its Q1 2018 earnings, and I followed along with the earnings call afterward to pick up further context on the numbers from Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The most striking thing from the call, at least as it pertains to us here in the Android world, is that the word "Pixel" was used only once — mentioned as an aside when talking about overall customer satisfaction with a wide range of Google hardware products. This comes despite the fact that we're just about 6 months removed from the Pixel 2 and 2 XL launch, and this earnings report comprised the first full quarter of the phones' retail availability — a perfect time to tout some numbers.
Google Home, Nest, Android One and Chrome OS took the focus in Q1.
After covering what are honestly more important parts of Google's business, including the advertising and search divisions, Pichai gave a quick rundown of the Google hardware division in addition to the latest in Android and Chrome OS. He made a point of specifically calling out how excited he was about the launch of Android One devices at MWC 2018, as well as the growth of Chrome OS in education with new devices and service improvements. Looking specifically at hardware, Nest's growth in the last year was heralded, as was Google Home for its worldwide sales expansion and high customer satisfaction numbers. Pixels? Nothing to mention one way or the other. Previous earnings calls at least make some mention of Google's phone hardware, even if it's a generic statement about how well they're being received in the market or how proud the company is of the months following the launch.
For fans of the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, this is moderately worrisome. Not because it's at all important to a Pixel 2 owners how many Pixels sold compared to other devices, but because hearing confidence in Google-branded phones from the company's leadership means we will continue to expect developments and improvements in the Pixel line — for the Pixel 3, and beyond.
Google has completed its HTC talent acquisition, and hardware investment is continuing on a long-term plan.
But we shouldn't lose hope. This earnings report marks several changes that could positively influence the development of future Pixels. Early in the quarter Google completed its acquisition of talent from HTC, totaling over 2,000 employees, now integrated into Google's hardware division (which also now includes Nest). Subsequently, Google's "other revenues" segment that comprises hardware and the Play Store, among other small segments, increased its revenues by $1 billion in the last year to $4.35 billion — not huge by Alphabet standards, but big enough to warrant its own segment in the earnings release and too big to ignore.
Pichai also had one final statement that was rather intriguing regarding hardware, saying that Google now has "all of the end-to-end capabilities of a world-class hardware organization" to match its already strong software offerings. He notes that it takes a very long time to scale these operations, specifically noting how difficult improvements in in-house-designed silicon — like the Pixel Visual Core — take to hit the market. The next step, he says, is scaling up go-to-market strategies to drive adoption of Google's own hardware to match its strong capabilities in product development. The time frame mentioned for getting the scale where they want to see it is 2 to 3 years, Pichai said, and "we're committed to getting there."
When you see comments like that, you can't say that Google is slowing down on its hardware efforts. Talking about long-term road maps and big investment in all parts of the hardware division bodes well for all of its products — just how much of that is spent on Pixel phones in particular has yet to be determined.
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