The Week in Google

Google has been in the news a lot this week, releasing the Chromebook Pixel and giving the World a sneak peak at Glass. Couple these with persistent rumors about Google retail stores, and you have an interesting trail of breadcrumbs leading into Google IO.

The Pixel is a head-scratcher. The Verge has one of the better reviews, especially with respect to the construction aspects, and if you factor in a retail angle, Google seems to be trying to establish itself as a premium brand, Glass, Pixel, Nexus devices, which adds to the caché of its ancillary services and growing selection of hardware.

The Pixel’s cost is very high, given what it does, but that might be enough to get consumers (and enterprises) in the door to buy something else. Glass is similar, at least in cost, and it’s definitely sexy enough to draw people into Google stores.

Techcrunch makes the point that the average consumer will absolutely want to test drive Google’s devices before buying. Even if they don’t buy, stores bring physical presence to Google, which is historically a virtual brand, something you use, but can’t really touch.

So, while the Pixel seems odd, it does feel like a halo play for Google’s online empire and for the Google brand, which will gain momentum when Glass releases. The Pixel may not move a lot of units, but it might get people to buy into the Chromebook philosophy and buy one of the lower cost models.

I read an interesting post about how Google is killing the Android brand. This makes sense from a branding perspective, differentiating Google’s Nexus devices from the right-wrong-indifferent view of Android as a low-cost alternative to the iFamily.

All this makes sense when taken as a whole, and I’m reminded of a debate Justin (@kestelyn) had about Google years ago. Google isn’t just an advertising and search company. They have much bigger aspirations, and I’m intrigued to watch how they evolve.

Find the comments.




  1. Google’s doing a smart thing with marketing Glass. Everywhere I look when I browse my (admitted tech-heavy) feeds, I see headshots of smiling, regular-looking people wearing the tech, and…it looks *good*. A little disconcerting at first, but it looks lightweight/unobtrusive, attractive (on the smiley, wholesome-looking people), and reasonably fashionable. Easy to imagine oneself using Glass without feeling like a weirdo cyborg (as opposed to, Idunno, the totally normal kind of cyborg).

    The Pixel, though: no clue what’s going on there, unless it’s a prestige play for nerds. Can’t scoff at that, really, Apple dork that I am, but still. Pretty high-end stuff for a cloud-based machine.

  2. @John: Google hired some well-known design firm to make Glass even svelter. I agree. Somewhere along the way, Google has become quite good at marketing. And design. It’s been a slow-creep evolution.

    Glass does look very interesting, but it also looks like the next level Bluetooth headset annoying. I wonder how many people are going to get punched for saying “OK Glass, take a picture.”

    I need to get one of those face-blurring hoodies I saw on Hawaii 5-0. Don’t ask.

    The Pixel interests me. I want to see how good the construction really is. I really like the Chromebook idea, especially for casual users, ahem family.

    Related, happy off-season my friend. Going to be a long ride back to the playoffs I’m afraid.

  3. @Chet: I have to say one use case I love for Glass is directions in a heads-up display, very cool for driving, walking, riding. I’m not into the video or picture taking, not worth the embarrassment.

    If I go there, I’ll likely only use them as needed vs. wearing them all the time.

  4. Saw an Engadget article today ( that Google will support installation of Linux on the Pixel, though the stock kernel won’t allow use of the touchscreen and other goodies. That might increase its utility for some folks who only want to be partly cloudy.

    Agreed about the Chromebook concept in general, it fits a good niche…at Chromebook prices. My wife has one, and it’s proven quite useful for her when she travels and doesn’t want to lug her laptop. Of course, she also installed Ubuntu on it so she could do dev work on the bus, so not exactly your typical use case.

    Maybe an early add-on for Glass will be a sub-vocalization microphone, and we can be spared people talking to the air.

    Yeah, long road back to the playoffs, indeed. At least I can fill the void w/ hockey, which I know is not an option that’s open to you. Though you might like it this year, only 48 games instead of 84. 😉

  5. Glass: There are major opportunities for business here. Plus it forces UX to think beyond the desktop/phone/tablet constraint.

    Like voice, Glass may even make more sense in real value terms in the enterprise than in personal life (how often do you want to see your Sunday morning bike ride on a headsup maps compared with say, field service tech wanting to see analytics of SRs and location, solutions, customers, and so on as they cycle to that next critical customer).

    Some ideas here:

    Pixel: A nice, Apple Macbook Air-spoiler with a price point beyond what makes sense except for the “My Other Laptop Has Retina” brigade, but for me I love my Chromebook (250 bucks) and the value it offers too. But a 1300+ dollars? I think not, but I see this as part of an emerging Google brand of ‘make it like Google’ becoming more pervasive than just search. Interesting times.

  6. @Chet: You can’t always have a sherpa, but when he’s available, you could pretend you don’t know the way.

    @John: No touchscreen might be a good thing. I’m not sure people will take to touch on a laptop, given ingrained behavior. Plus, T-Rex arms look funny and would create a whole new medical condition. My elbows couldn’t take it.

    Partly cloud, love that, must use it w attribution, natch.

    My wife used the same use case for my Chromebook, travel. It’s light and cheap enough to go into checked luggage. If it’s stolen, no biggie, password protected and all.

    They say the Glass uses head vibrations or something to understand you, so maybe it can be commanded by whisper, although that’s equally freaking, a la that kid on The Middle.

    I’m void-filling w rampant draft and salary cap speculation. It’s not working.

    @Ultan: Absolutely. Any field service tech who’s working w her/his hands could benefit from a heads-up display. And medical, automotive, really anyone.

    Cooking is one another. The iPad is nice in the kitchen until you have to wake it up to check ingredients while something is cooking, or while you’re wearing gloves to cut jalapenos 🙂

    Love the Chromebook concept, and the Pixel looks like eyecandy, nothing more, like those gem-encrusted phones.

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