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Tensor is the end of Google’s romance with other phone makers

OPINION: Google released its new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones this week. And while it may not be all that “new”, given that the company had the same tech launch in October like a watch for nearly the last decade in October, it was a very different event for me.

And it’s not just that both phones look like the biggest updates we’ve seen in Google phone offerings since the release of the first generation Pixels many months ago. Or that he saw Google return to a truly flagship space with the Pixel 6 Pro, after seemingly ditching it with last year’s decidedly mid-range Pixel 5.

This happened because for the first time, Google seemed to completely lose interest in playing with the phone and component makers that made the Android platform as great as it is.

This became evident as Google Senior Vice President Rick Osterloh and Google Product Manager Monica Gupta took the stage at a Google event to celebrate the two new Tensor chips in the phone.

Their descriptions used phrases such as “holding back”, “not so good”, “first time we were able” to describe the new chip and its capabilities compared to the competition.

This is a profound change in the way Google has talked about other phone makers and component suppliers in the past.

When Android first came out, Google wasn’t in the hardware business. Even the first Nexus devices didn’t change that. Yes, they could be bought, and Google screamed how good they were, but most of the time they spent during these keynotes selling their software, not hardware.

Nexus devices were created solely to encourage developers to work on Android and make it the world’s leading platform. This was the key reason the company never built its own Nexus, instead opting to partner with companies like HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG, and Huawei for every new generation. Any mention of how good the hardware usually came through guest speakers from Qualcomm or the company that helped make the phone

You can argue that this changed the moment Google launched the Pixel, the first line of phones built exclusively by the search giant. But I would say that it is not. Even though the Pixels were “made by Google,” they still used parts from other manufacturers, chief among them the Snapdragon chips they ran on. And Google has never attached much importance to its hardware, still pointing to its stellar software and Google services that include advanced AI imaging.

The rush to focus on how it was held back before Tensor was a sign that Google has come to the conclusion that it no longer needs to do business with rival tech firms, and is going to cut them down – to some extent.

It makes sense because, for all the great marketing, Google’s core mission has never changed. Basically, Google is a data company. Every service it provides, every device it produces, has one goal; to attract users to your platform, watch its ads and share your data.

This is why Google has created Gmail, Maps, Drive, and just about every service in its portfolio. This is also why he is doing Tensor now. The AI ​​chip is not meant to help you translate conversations abroad in real time or allow you to take better pictures. These are just tertiary, albeit deliberate, perks designed to encourage you to use Google services. Like Apple with its A and M-series chips, all it does differently is to try to cut down on any additional costs or intermediaries in the process.

From a consumer point of view, this could be good. We’ve already seen how positive it can be for a tech company with full control over a device’s software and hardware with Apple’s iPhone lineup. But from a competitive standpoint, it could be terrible. This is where OEMs can find themselves in a very difficult situation when faced with the choice of accepting Google’s hardware and software, or abandoning both if they want to offer a competitive user experience.

We’ve already seen that Huawei is forced to do this, albeit for different reasons, with its Harmony OS. Oppo is rumored to be tinkering with its own operating system for this very reason. At one time, Samsung also tried, but was unable to do so, as Tizen seemed to foresee such an opportunity.

This is why I can’t help but feel that Google Tensor is a turning point for the tech industry that could fundamentally disrupt the Android and iOS status quo we’ve seen in the phone market over the past decade.

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