Google Introduces Its Very Own Pixel Smartphone


For all the bells and whistles of Google’s new smartphone, the biggest point of emphasis is tucked away in small type on the back of the device: “Phone by Google.”

Today, most of Google’s smartphone software runs on devices manufactured by companies like Samsung, LG Electronics and Lenovo, with Google’s presence often relegated to the background. But with its new Pixel smartphone, introduced Tuesday at a press event, Google is front and center and selling a phone that it created from the industrial design to the components.

Google’s new strategy of controlling both hardware and software for its devices puts the company more directly in competition with Apple and many of its own Android partners. It’s a necessity, Google says, because of the advent of artificial intelligence.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, said devices with artificial intelligence — where computers can understand what people are saying and respond conversationally with the right information at the right moment — present a seminal moment in computing on par with the creation of the personal computer, the World Wide Web and smartphones.

For Google, artificial intelligence takes form in the Google Assistant. Google demonstrated how the Assistant, through a series of questions, can be used to plan a night out — from finding out about upcoming concerts at a certain venue to booking a reservation at a restaurant or researching how long the drive from the restaurant to the show will take.

“The goal is to build a personal Google for each and every individual,” Mr. Pichai said.

Pixel is the first smartphone with the Google Assistant built into the device. It was part of a new-product barrage including a Wi-Fi router, a virtual reality headset and a Chromecast device for streaming high-resolution video.

The Assistant is also a key part of another product the company introduced on Tuesday, Google Home. As the company’s answer to the Amazon Echo, Google Home is a speaker that listens for questions or commands to play music or control internet-connected devices. The Echo, which relies on A.I. software created by Amazon called Alexa, has been a surprise hit and has been on the market for two years.

The Echo’s success informed an important part of Google’s strategy: hardware products that provide a vessel to get the Google Assistant into the hands of consumers.

Its competitors are taking a similar path with their A.I. technology. Amazon is now building Alexa into its other hardware products like Fire tablets and Fire TV set-top boxes. Apple is considering expanding the reach of its virtual assistant from the iPhone and iPad into the home with an Echo-like device.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Daisuke Wakabayashi