Google hints at plan to ‘more deeply integrate software and hardware,’ following Pixel phone release

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Image: Flickr user Maurizio Pesce

Google executives indicated the company would likely continue to become more involved in the hardware side of its operations, an indication that Google could release additional phones and other devices into the wireless industry following the release earlier this month of its Pixel smartphones.

“We also think there's an opportunity for us to more deeply integrate software and hardware together to deliver great experiences that we hope will also contribute to future innovation and development of the ecosystem,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said yesterday during the company’s quarterly conference call with investors, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks.

Pichai largely declined to offer further insights into Google’s strategy on the hardware front, noting only that the company during the third quarter released a handful of Google-built devices including Google Home, its Daydream View VR headset and controller, Chromecast Ultra, and the Wi-Fi system called Google Wifi. “This portfolio of products is an example of how we can marry the best of hardware and software to deliver the best Google experience to people,” Pichai said during the call.

In smartphones specifically, Google unveiled the Pixel and Pixel XL earlier this month, two new gadgets positioned to compete against the iPhone as well as high-end smartphones from Samsung and other vendors.

A number of analysts during Google’s earnings call asked for details and color on Google’s hardware plans. Pichai generally didn’t offer many details, explaining only that “we have done hardware products over the years, but we saw an opportunity to bring all our display hardware efforts together in a thoughtful structure.”

He added: “So along those lines, both Google Home [and] Google Pixel are important new efforts for us, and I think we will thoughtfully evolve our go-to-market strategy as well.”

Google continues to toe a fine line in the hardware business: The company currently licenses its Android smartphone operating system for free to a wide range of manufacturers including Samsung, Huawei and others, so the company’s efforts in the hardware business could cause tensions between Google and the companies also seeking to make money from the sale of Android-powered hardware.

Of course, this isn’t a new element in the Android ecosystem. Google famously purchased and then sold smartphone maker Motorola. And in his comments yesterday, Pichai reiterated Google’s desire to avoid taking an Apple approach to the market where it strictly controls both hardware and software: “We deeply remain committed to building an open ecosystem because at the end of the day we want Google to be there for every user everywhere,” he said.

As for Google’s overall financial performance, the company’s parent Alphabet reported a 27 percent increase in third-quarter profit, driven largely by the company’s successes in monetizing advertisements on its mobile platforms including search and YouTube.

Finally, Google executives remained largely quiet on the topic of Google Fiber, which earlier this week announced it would halt construction amid the departure of CEO Craig Barratt.