With the Pixel Watch and tablet, Google is getting serious about its ecosystem

This year’s Google I/O keynote was full of hardware announcements, which is unusual considering it’s usually a software- and services-centric event. The most exciting of these is the news that Google plans to return to the Android tablet market next year, and that it will also release its first smartwatch, the Pixel Watch, later in 2022.

Google gave a few different reasons for changing its mind. But the most interesting of them all were comments from Google VP of Product Management Sameer Samat, who spoke more broadly about the benefits tablet devices can bring to the Pixel ecosystem. “I think consumer expectations have also changed over time,” Samat said. “The phone is of course very important, but it’s also clear that there are other device form factors that are complementary and critical to consumers’ decisions about which ecosystem to buy into and which ecosystem to live in. [in]. “

In other words, building the Pixel tablet (and the Pixel Watch) isn’t just important because Google wants customers to buy these specific devices. It’s also important if Google wants them to buy the entire Pixel ecosystem. The importance of the Pixel phones themselves won’t stop, but Google wants people to know that once they buy a Google smartphone, there’s a range of accessories like smartwatches, earbuds, and tablets designed to go perfectly with it. After they’ve purchased the perfect Pixel accessory, there’s a good chance they’ll stick with the smartphone brand for their next upgrade.

It’s similar to the “walled garden” Apple uses (often actively) to turn itself into a $2 trillion company. The iPhone can offload many common tasks to the Mac, which can be used to control the iPad and works best with AirPods. Apple Fitness workouts can be controlled on Apple Watch and streamed to your Apple TV. iMessage requires you and all your friends to use iPhones. you understood.

Apple believes so much in its ecosystem that it sometimes prioritizes its walled gardens over the quality of its individual products. The HomePod is a good example: it’s only designed to work with iPhones, and it’s objectively more useful and likely to sell more units if it lets you stream via Bluetooth rather than just Apple’s own AirPlay standard.However, as Analyst Benedict Evans observes At the time, the HomePod was probably never meant to sell in large numbers, just to give any iPhone owner who bought it another reason to stick with Apple for their next phone purchase.

The bottom of the Apple HomePod.
Photo by James Barham/The Verge

I don’t think Google is planning to build the same type of wall around its garden. The company’s core advertising business relies on jobs on a larger scale than even a big company like Apple, and this open approach has allowed Android to control about 75 percent of the global smartphone market. While Google has been working on making Android phones work better with Windows for years, Wear OS is designed to be compatible with iOS. The release of Google-branded smartwatches and tablets won’t change that.

Google’s approach may be more subtle, similar to what Apple uses with its AirPods. Wear OS is already at its best when paired with an Android phone. Google’s software is generally designed to be cross-compatible, much like how ChromeOS provides support for running Android apps. But after years of leaving the hardware to other companies, Google’s focus appears to be shifting to a combined hardware and software approach. The Pixel Watch will almost certainly work on Android devices (iPhone support is less clear), but I’d be very surprised if it didn’t work the best Use a Pixel phone.

But now it appears to be discovering the limitations of this approach, not least because it conflicts with the ecosystem ambitions of some other companies. I’m talking about Samsung here, the largest Android tablet maker and, as of last year, the best-known Wear OS smartwatch maker. But despite using Google’s operating system, Samsung’s devices have always pushed users toward Samsung’s own ecosystem.

In the case of last year’s Galaxy Watch 4, Samsung is finally using Wear OS instead of its own Tizen operating system on one of its smartwatches. But while it seems to embrace Google’s ecosystem, in reality the smartwatch’s allegiance has always been Samsung’s. It uses Samsung Pay instead of Google Pay, uses Bixby instead of Google Assistant, and comes with Samsung apps like Calendar, Calculator and Contacts instead of the Google equivalent. It syncs your Samsung phone’s settings and automatically switches between Galaxy-branded earbuds using Samsung’s system.

“If you’re a Samsung user, the Galaxy Watch 4 is a great smartwatch. If you’re not, the Galaxy Watch 4 just forces you into the Samsung ecosystem,” my former colleague Dieter Bohn said in said in his comments.

The same goes for tablets. When my colleague Dan Seifert reviewed the Tab S8 earlier this year, he discovered a number of handy features that only really matter to users of other Samsung devices. The Galaxy Buds automatically switch between the tablet and the Samsung phone, and the tablet can also turn on the phone’s mobile hotspot feature. “Having not seen a good reason to buy an Android tablet in years, I have to admit that Samsung has made a compelling pitch this time around — assuming you’re already in the Samsung Android ecosystem,” he wrote.

Samsung’s watch, Google’s Wear OS, Samsung’s ecosystem.
Photo by Dieter Born/The Verge

Samsung’s approach neatly showcases the incentives for consumer tech companies today. Of course, they can design their products to integrate seamlessly with all of Google’s hardware, applications and services. Or, if you’re the world’s largest smartphone maker, you can try to use some of that installed base to your advantage, encouraging existing customers to buy smartwatches or tablets to complement their phones. Who would consider switching to a Google Pixel or OnePlus once they’ve got the full suite of Samsung tech?

Since the launch of the Pixel line, Google has tried to combine a limited hardware focus with broad software support. But ecosystems are important, and, in 2022, if you can’t control both your hardware and your software, you’re letting another company do better — maybe even park its platform on top of yours .

technology .

Leave a Reply