Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi review Google’s hardware launch event with Tech Analyst, Rene Ritchie.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Google held its annual hardware event yesterday, packing a number of new product announcements into a quick 30 minutes. And as expected, the company unveiled its Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. But it also revealed a few unexpected surprises.
Joining us now to discuss is tech analyst Rene Ritchie. Rene, first off, just what were your thoughts about yesterday's big reveals? And what were the big takeaways for you?
RENE RITCHIE: I think it was quintessentially Google in that it was a slightly awkward presentation, showcasing midrange hardware, but with really, really, really good software and services attached to it. Slightly confused messaging, which seems-- which they seem to actually like. It gives them a lot of agility. And I think very value-conscious, very affordable products going into the holidays.
BRIAN SOZZI: Rene, anything that Google put forth yesterday that Apple should be worried about?
RENE RITCHIE: I think at the lower end, something like the Google Chrome Cast-- super affordable, $50. You attach it to any television. And it essentially turns it into a Google Television product. Apple has so far been at the higher end of the set-top boxes. And something like an Apple TV Stick or Apple TV Go I think would be a more compelling offering for that.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: They also had plans for their Nest business. And now they've got this speaker. Do you think it's going to rival what's already on the market? I'm thinking Sonos, for example.
RENE RITCHIE: I think Google's doing a really good job sort of putting everything around the Nest brand now and offering really good computational audio quality. Sonos has always been good at making a mesh network and letting you move music around the house. But Google's really investing in making not just that possible, but making it sound as good as possible from as small a speaker as possible.
BRIAN SOZZI: Rene, why don't these Google phones ever seem to blow up in sales? Sure, they've turned into a pretty good business for Google. And the phones themselves, they look pretty cool. Why don't they see a really strong rush of demand?
RENE RITCHIE: I think Google still internally has no idea what they want to do with phones. Their CFO clearly wants an iPhone. Their team clearly wants to dog food Google technologies. And then they also want to make them affordable. But every year, the Pixel phone is good, but it's completely different.
It's almost a repudiation of the phone they made last year. So we saw the Pixel 4 with Project Soli face ID sensors, higher-end parts. We're deliberately not doing a wide-angle camera. And then this year, they reverse every one of those decisions. So it makes it hard for them to build momentum year after year, like a Samsung or Huawei or Apple will do.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Was there anything that just flat out disappointed you yesterday from the Google announcements? I think it's still the lack of coherence around messaging. We have Google TV, which is different than the original Google TV, which is different than Android TV and Yahoo TV. I don't think there's a Gmail TV yet, but it wouldn't surprise me.
And the same thing, they seem to have loose opinions really pugnaciously stated at every event, but then rapidly reversed at the next event. And it makes it hard to build brand affinity. But also, they don't get the advantage of making each element of every device better year after year that every other vendor in the space is doing right now.
BRIAN SOZZI: How will the 5G rollout impact the Google phone business?
RENE RITCHIE: I was originally more skeptical about it, because there didn't seem to be very much good 5G. It seemed to be mostly driven by finance and marketing departments. But T-Mobile has made some recent announcements where they're putting mid-band 5G. And I think 5G millimeter wave is still going to be hard to find for most people. But increasingly, they'll just get sort of the promise of LTE that was never delivered, especially in suburbs and rural areas-- faster, better-quality connections, less congestion, all of those things.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Buried in those announcements, in those reveals was that Google is going to pay publishers $1 billion over the next three years for content for its new Google News showcase. Is that the best use of Google's money, do you think?
RENE RITCHIE: It's an interesting concession in that Google borders the line between providing access to other people's content and basically stealing that content. Like if you end up in a Google snippet, either they take so much of your article that nobody click through, or they take not enough and everybody clicks through. So it can be a complete boom or bust for you.
And they don't seem to be aware of how much influence they have over the livelihood of publishers in that aspect. And I don't think this is an ideal solution. But I think Google hopes this prevents regulation that would lead them to an unideal solution.