FROM VLAD SAVOV | THE VERGE | http://bit.ly/2w9exyg
#Google sets its sights on the #iPhone with #HTC #deal
Of the three most influential companies in smartphone design, Nokia fragmented into a million pieces after being bought out by Microsoft, Apple is still going strong, and Google just bought the third with its $1.1 billion deal with HTC. The reason why Google acquired what looks to be the majority of HTC’s phone design and engineering team is simple, and it’s been obvious for over a year: Google is serious about becoming a hardware company.
Early in 2016, Google created a new hardware division and re-hired Motorola chief Rick Osterloh to run that group. A brief few months after that, the company was plastering the streets of Europe and the US with billboards trumpeting the arrival of the first “Made by Google” Pixel devices. Why do we refuse to acknowledge what’s right in front of our eyes?
Google is going to war against the iPhone. It sounds preposterous given the number and quality of apps that Google produces for Apple’s iOS ecosystem, but the iPhone is a direct threat and counter to Google’s overarching goal of being ubiquitous on every internet-connected device. Apple’s voice assistant Siri searches the web using Bing rather than Google, and Apple Maps was created explicitly to shake off Apple’s dependence on Google Maps.
As Apple works to become independent of Google through the provision of its own services like Apple Music and iCloud, Google is moving to become independent of Apple by trying to make a better smartphone. One company is getting serious about services, the other is getting serious about hardware, and the end result will be an escalation and exacerbation of the conflict between them. The good old days of the Apple CEO and Google CEO sorting out their differences over casual coffee on a Palo Alto street are over.
Everything we’ve seen Google do since the hiring of Osterloh can be best understood through the prism of competing with Apple’s hardware. Why, for instance, does Google need to buy the HTC team that built its first-generation Pixels? The answer lies in the benefits of tight, Apple-like integration: Google can iterate Pixel designs much faster with an in-house crew, and it can do synergistic things with its hardware and software that it wouldn’t be able to when contracting the work out (even the former Google+ VP Vic Gundotra has stated a preference for this approach). This is an awful example, but having its own design team means Google can build its own Bixby button for launching the Google Assistant.