back to article Google's hardware extravaganza: Ad giant takes on Sonos, Roku, Linksys, Amazon, Oculus... you name it

In just 90 minutes on Tuesday morning, Google took an enormous leap into the hardware market, offering new products to compete with Sonos in the music streaming market, Roku in video streaming, Linksys in routers, Amazon in voice assistants, Oculus in virtual reality, and Apple in phones. The sheer depth and breadth of the …

  1. Deckmunki
    Coat

    Definitely future-proofed this time

    I'm absolutely positively convinced that Google won't require these wifi pucks to be logged in to a cloud account and they certainly won't stop working in two years' time when the Chocolate Factory's oompahloompahs decide to release version 2 of these oversized Trebor Extra Strong Mints... Oh no, wait, the Other Thing...

    Mine's the one with the Victor Meldrew photo in the pocket...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Definitely future-proofed this time

      wifi pucks? All I saw was urinal cakes. Can you really piss on these?

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: Definitely future-proofed this time

        "All I saw was urinal cakes. Can you really piss on these?"

        At Alphabet Google, urinal cakes piss on you, with ads.

      2. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Definitely future-proofed this time

        wifi pucks? All I saw was urinal cakes. Can you really piss on these?

        I think someone already has ... seeing as you're taking the piss out of them.

    2. Seajay#

      Re: Definitely future-proofed this time

      They're worse than the powerline networking way of solving the same problem because wifi is never going to be as fast as copper. Plus they can never be an all-google seamless solution because your ISP's router has to be in the picture somewhere.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More adverts

    Just more ways Google can steal private information and use it to flog adverts to us in every facet of our lives.

    I will pass.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: More adverts

      This time you pay premium hardware prices and get slurped. There'll be queues around the block.

    2. Planty Bronze badge
      FAIL

      Re: More adverts

      LOL, stealing private information. What a tool. If Google are stealing it (by your idiot definition), so so are Facebook, so are Yahoo, so are Apple, so are Microsoft, so are Amazon.

      The privacy policy from Google is very clear, you should read it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Mushroom

        Re: More adverts

        @Planty?

        Boy, you really believe to Google "Don't be Evil" tagline. Can you please start your posts as:

        "Disclaimer: I am a Google Shill."

        They are an advertising agency. Treat them as such.

        1. Goldmember

          Re: More adverts

          Whilst @Planty's execution was poor, the point was sound. Google offers software products for "free" (and the new hardware products will be released at low-medium price points, apparently). Consumers use the products, and in exchange agree to hand over various bits of personal information. This info is used by Google to create a profile, which it then uses to push targeted ads at said consumers.

          The products are often good, which is why people use them and are happy to hand over information in return. There is no "theft" involved. It's all there in the T&Cs.

          It's pretty simple. If you don't like the thought of Google using your info, don't use its products.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: More adverts

            The Pixel phone has an iPhone price-point but with added slurp. So it's more expensive.

      2. TAJW

        Re: More adverts

        So, you really don't think the Google 'Home' and Amazon 'Echo' don't have the capacity to listen to everything you say, pick out words about products such as you say Wii, and suddenly you start getting ads for games, or for a new Playstation, or you discuss Bahamas, and now you are getting ads about discounts to trips, luggage, and appropriate clothing.

        These guys are not stupid. They make you pay for the unit, then use it just like cookies in a web browser.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: More adverts

          Of course they have such capacity. Even recall one article about that very thing seeming to happen (with the Echo). But I take issue with those miscalling it data "theft" when it is explicit in the terms and conditions, which you agree to when you choose to use the products.

  3. Andrew Jones 2

    Home: It's the one thing have been waiting for from this event, and I won't lie I am disappointed that there is no information at all about a UK launch date, but it has given me the time to ask the right questions - and it seems, at launch at least - that they are NOT multi account capable - which means the concept demo shown at Google IO in May is not yet possible. Therefore - I wouldn't be too convinced on your "chance of this succeeding" score. For devices like this to be adopted in a mass market style - it has to be able handle the family situation. In the IO demo we saw the Wife in the bedroom getting a daily summary, changing a reservation and texting a friend, we later saw the husband getting an update on the traffic conditions on his route to work and receiving an updated route on his phone. Apparently - right now the only way to swap accounts on the Home is to log out and log in with the new account - this is clearly just not feasible. For a company like Google with all their massive cloud processing, to not have the device realise who is speaking to it based solely on their voice is woefully pitiful - and it's going to fail horribly with families who don't want to buy one for every room of the house.

    1. Raphael

      A second problem with the multi-account thing is...

      Google won't let you create an account for an under 13 year old (which sucks as a parent trying to implement parental controls on the kids computer...it only take about 3 clicks to get to the weird part of Youtube. Microsoft does a better job in this space).

      So if they did do multi-account in it, would it be able to respond to kids?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A second problem with the multi-account thing is...

        Google won't let you create an account for an under 13 year old (which sucks as a parent trying to implement parental controls on the kids computer...it only take about 3 clicks to get to the weird part of Youtube. Microsoft does a better job in this space).

        In other words, good luck for the kid trying to get the lights on. Well done, Google.

        Not that it'll be an issue in my house - there will be no gadget into my house that has the potential to start an uncontrolled gathering of information. No Amazon Echo, Siri is disabled and DEFINITELY nothing even *tainted* by Google. It's already hard enough to protect the privacy of my family, so I'm certainly not going to help the bastards. Ditto for IoT kit - time to look for a decent firewall for a subnet and no, they won't get IPv6 connectivity or an "account" somewhere which ensures a 3rd party has control instead of me. Enough is enough.

        1. GrumpyOldMan

          Re: A second problem with the multi-account thing is...

          And I thought it was just me.

          Remember not so long ago when Samsung smart TVs were found to be listening in on all conversations by default? Then we found they were almost all at it. 'To improve speech recognition'. Yeah - right.

          My beef with Echo and now this is what else will they be listening in on? and then what goes it take for GCHQ or the NSA to patch int o them? Nope - sorry - I'm with the AC on this one. Big firewall. Or maybe 2 with bastion host? Or more... where does it end? Do they need to know when I have a c**p or have a drink of water so they can sell me 'A new method of drinking water' or 'super duper clean water'? The human race has got along fine without in-your-face advertising for the last few millennia... and I DO NOT want my fridge or dishwasher or toaster blasting me with ads first thing in the morning. Thanks.

          Privacy has now gone way beyond the 'if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear' brigade and into intensively intrusive targeted advertising. And there's all kinds of interesting stuff they can learn about you...

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      The "advantage" of this kind of Google kit is that it's always going to update. Given that little Google do is every out of beta - or to put a positive spin on it, they're still improving everything.

      Most of the hard work will be being done on a Google server somewhere, so all they have to do is update that program. Which means voice recognition and multi-account support is potentially only a software update away.

      Whether you want to buy into that whole world is another thing. You're giving Google a huge amount of access to all sorts of information about you - and you're also buying into whatever changes and upgrades they choose to give you.

      For example I've still got privacy concerns about allowing Apple/Google/MS off-device access to my calendar and addressbook in order for them to do their fancy Siri/Voice/Cortana stuff. And I'm not sure voice recognition has improved much in the last twenty years - since I used Dragon talk to type. It doesn't seem much more accuracy, the difference is that you don't need to train the software for a few hours anymore.

      So it could all be good, or go wrong. Finally though, their reputation for customer service is awful. And deserved. They have a habit of dumping projects at very short notice, without ongoing support. Including hardware from Nest. And they've never built retail level customer service, if you remember they launched their first Nexus phone on direct sales without it. And had to hastily pay HTC to bail them out of the mess they made. If they're serious about this venture, then that could all be changed easily enough - but it's a matter of trust. I'd rate Amazon of Apple much better than Google on support/customer service. It requires a change of corporate culture from Google, and I'm not sure I've seen the signs of that yet.

      1. Andrew Jones 2

        Well - I am happy to buy into the world, apart from the physical button that stops the device listening for the hotword for people who are really private - the device sends no recorded voice data to Google UNTIL it hears the hotword, just like no Android phone with "always on listening" sends anything to Google until it hears "OK Google".

        The bandwidth use for a device that is constantly streaming recorded voice data to Google would be very very obvious very quickly after launch. But Google themselves have clarified no data is sent until the device recognises the hotword.

  4. Code For Broke

    Literally not one mention of the MIA Nexus 7 2016 in this article. THAT's the device I'm waiting for - something Google perfected (the small, affordable tablet), instead of something Google copied (iPhone, Echo, Samsung VR, etc.)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pass

    Given Google's well-documented history of dropping support on short notice for widely used products I think I'll stick to a company that has an attention span longer than a chocolate smeared toddler.

    I have no plans to spend $299 on mesh routers that will send all my traffic to advertisers and will cease to work in 16 months when Google, sorry Alphabet, rebrands and pivots again to focus on personal jetpacks and invisible cloaks.

    1. Mellipop

      Re: Pass

      Actually, I wouldn't mind if Google partnered with ISPs to mitigate the effects of Denial Of Service attacks.

      As malicious traffic is only going to get worse with botnets of IoT devices, it needs a company with resources like Google to bring defences together.

      Stuff like booking restaurant seats is cool, however I would be really impressed if Google damped down the spurious traffic.

      It may not seem like it but DDOS mitigation is going to become a consumer concern.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Pass

      I was thinking the same thing. Google kills more products than it keeps, so half the stuff announced today will be gone in two years.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pass

      I have no plans to spend $299 on mesh routers that will send all my traffic to advertisers and will cease to work in 16 months when Google, sorry Alphabet, rebrands and pivots again to focus on personal jetpacks and invisible cloaks.

      There's also the rather dodgy terms you have to sign up to, which are deliberately made so long that you'll miss the demand for your first born at the end if you ever decide to leave. Google: Hotel California for your data.

    4. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Pass

      I was trying to work out what the compelling sales pitch for these gadgets might be and - given the data slurping and the history of abandonware - there'd have to be something compelling about them.

      But I really can't see it, even in a desparate attempt to see through the eyes of a dyed-in-the-plaid hipster. It's all just stuff you can buy from other people - but tethered to the Googleplex. It can't acheive its (frankly, chilling) ultimate potential unless it's exclusively tethered, but the market for "there is but one God" technology has already been pretty much sewn up by Apple and even their ambitions are pretty heavily circumscribed.

      There simply isn't a market for "creepy supplier of everything in your house" so if Google really want to infiltrate your daily life to a greater extent than they already do they're going to have to come up with one or two things that offer rather more than the ability to toss a coin without getting off the sofa and report on your video-viewing history.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pass

        There simply isn't a market for "creepy supplier of everything in your house" so if Google really want to infiltrate your daily life to a greater extent than they already do they're going to have to come up with one or two things that offer rather more than the ability to toss a coin without getting off the sofa and report on your video-viewing history.

        They do, and it's not even a new strategy. They pay some vacuous celebs to declare it "cool", at which point they won't be able to supply them fast enough to keep up with demand. Once the stupid have bought them you have enough market mass to ram it down the throat of the rest of us.

        Thank God some of us are a bit more stubborn than that, but it does occasionally get irritating.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pass

      Why would it stop working in 16 months, even if Google did something else? Google support is vastly superior to the joke that is Belkin/Linksys....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pass

        "Why would it stop working in 16 months, "

        Because they rely on a cloud connection and they have form in this area.

        https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/05/revolv-devices-bricked-google-nest-smart-home

        1. Andrew Jones 2

          Re: Pass

          Sigh..... Revolv was a company Google bought - it's not something they started, and they bought it to poach the staff, tech and patents like every other company that buys another.

    6. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Pass

      Mesh routers supporting the 802.11s mesh networking standard meaning they can drop support all they want on the cloud side of things, they will still quite happily operate as mesh networked access points.

  6. Doc Ock

    Missing from the list is the Google toilet, it can examine your waste products and based on those results it will sling ads at you. Get worried if you seed a lot of ads for life insurance or funeral services.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hmm, I have a strange sense of deja vu here. @Fink-Nottle did read it correctly after all :).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Competing with Linksys is easy

    That market is moribund and has been moribund for a long time.

    You have race-to-the-bottom stuff printed by Chinese mills with buggy bugware written once and never updated. You also have stuff built by similarly race-to-the-bottom mills with even buggier, but updateable and sometimes updated bugware written to a cretinous spec originated by the Broadband Forum for service providers. In either case, the so called Brand Names are not Engineering names any more - they have outsourced everything including design ages ago and have no competency and no IPR to speak of. They are simply a trademark placeholder to put a badge on the box.

    There are only a couple of mid-size ISPs in France and Eastern Europe who have finally grocked the idea that anything coming out of the Broadband forum is totally retarded and have shown TR69 the Antonio Banderas gesture (TM). These develop their own (usually openwrt based) firmware for white-label boxes and have built their own non-TR69 management systems. The rest are firmly towing the line. Even low cost regions like LatAm, etc still buy the useless sh*** instead of rolling their own (which is actually cheaper).

    Anyone with a 10-15 headcount Eu or California design and software development team can gatecrash that party and sweep the floor. It does not take that much effort (been there, written it for a major vendor which after that starved it on investment so it never saw the light of day - hence anonymous). In fact, compared to the other "hardware" effort this one for Google is a "joke" or a vanity project. As it nicely complements the Nest it is not likely to be canned though (we developed it at the time for similar reasons - it is a "cost of doing business" to push other services).

    The really hilarious bit - I can see now everyone trying to copy Google including the same management teams which choked what we (and similar teams in other vendors) developed circa 5 years ago. 'Cause Google does it. Mee too. Mee too. Mee too.

  8. Lee D Silver badge

    "Just as a side point: are we all choosing to ignore the fact that ramming a screen inches from your eyes for hours at a time is unlikely to do your eyes or brain any good?"

    Your mother was wrong.

    Distance does not matter.

    Fatigue through over-extended use - yeah, sure that's a problem. Same problem as watching too much TV or playing too many video games. When you're tired and your eyes hurt, stop.

    But your eyes were built to focus on all kinds of things at all kinds of distances.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes and no...

      If a screen is rammed in front of your eyes, you cannot divert away and refocus on a different focal length.

      This is why there are laws around VDU usage and rest breaks.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        'If a screen is rammed in front of your eyes, you cannot divert away and refocus on a different focal length.'

        True although I believe VR headsets use the lenses to trick the eye into focusing at around 18' which is the point the eye focuses at at rest which should minimise any strain. Certainly the Occulus Rift I've tried didn't give any eye strain after several hours use.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Sure. If you DON'T LET YOUR EYES REST.

          That's the point.

          Nothing to do with the actual distance. Just to do with staring at a FIXED distance for so long and never changing focus.

          No different to headaches when trekking through jungle - which you can get because you're either in fixed focus at the floor, or constantly shifting focus if you look at all the trees for hours on end.

  9. sabroni Silver badge
    Joke

    all the demos relied on everything being held on Google's servers.

    Surely they use open APIs and there are configuration options that we can use to un-tether them from Google?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: all the demos relied on everything being held on Google's servers.

      Surely they use open APIs and there are configuration options that we can use to un-tether them from Google?

      Hahaha, like it. Excellent joke :)

  10. Bob Rocket

    Oh puck.

    Can those little puck things work with my existing internal not internet connected network ?

    If they can then I could put them to good use, if as I suspect they will just sulk if they can't talk to the mothership then they are worse than useless.

    1. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Oh puck.

      If you mean the Chromecast - then no, because all the apps live on the servers of each developer - and aren't really apps at all in the usual sense. They are HTML5 web pages.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re. funky uses: "flip a coin"

    Google, I want a job!

    Google Home: sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    all-Google eco-system

    ah yes, come to daddy...

  13. Mage Silver badge
    Pirate

    Google Wifi: a mesh system of routers aimed at stealing an emerging market.

    Probably more aimed at "stealing" personal information.

    Beware Geeks bearing gifts!

    Though the Pixels are obviously not gifts at those aimed at rich prices.

  14. kmac499

    T'other side of the coin.

    Hoarding of user data bad. Temporary use of data to build a profile for advertisers who are paying for my free websearches, apps etc?? , if I felt that bad about it, other search engines are availiable.

    But in all honesty how many of us have actually bought some stuff as the result of a 'targeted' ad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: T'other side of the coin.

      In all honesty I think 'targeted ads' are the least of the issues.

      What we are providing to these corporations are our locations, habits, family and friends, likes, dislikes, income, skills, political views, etc., etc.

      Not to come over all Orwellian (well, yes, actually that's exactly what I am doing) but if there was ever any need for you to go 'off the grid' it would be impossible because all of the data necessary to find every friend, relation, hidey-hole, transport, communications device that you have ever had anything to do with will be readily available.

      You've done nothing wrong, but you're jewish or black or gay or right-wing or left-wing or whatever somebody controlling this data doesn't like.

      I have seen the future and I don't like it.

  15. Lost In Clouds of Data
    IT Angle

    Sometimes I wonder...

    ...if I'm the only schmuck here who works in IT that still has a Tube TV and a piss-ignorant Thermostat that still requires me to walk up to it to change the settings (oh, the inhumanity of it all!)

    1. gregthecanuck

      Re: Sometimes I wonder...

      No you aren't the only one. My Sony 34" tube TV packed it in only recently. Was a good set and at over 100lbs guaranteed to be there when I come home. :)

      Luddites of the universe united we stand.

    2. cambsukguy

      Re: Sometimes I wonder...

      That's the bit I don't get about thermostats; you set a temperature and leave it.

      I suppose one *might* want a change when an older relative arrives and feels the cold or a new baby does the same.

      But, mostly, mostly, it just stays exactly where I set it, summer and winter. I see so many houses where the heat is switched off for periods of months, usually only getting switched on when November arrives and people have already started using space heaters to compensate (Landlords can be horribly miserly).

      My rads do not come on (but I get hot water) during the Summer. Some time later, about now, they might warm up a little early in the morning for a short time and take any chill off the place.

      As for "Call your house and ask it to warm up for you", I guess there is a market for Singletons in flats but it wouldn't be a lot of use in most situations.

      Of course, if you just let your house know the location and travel of *all* the people that live in it, it could start guessing and adjusting accordingly.

      1. Andrew Jones 2

        Re: Sometimes I wonder...

        Well clearly you are the single person responsible for ALL global climate change then. You are supposed to turn the thermostat down every time you are going to leave the house empty for more than 5 minutes - because heating an empty house is bad for the environment don't you know. (I don't have a smart thermostat either, and I'm not going to bother with one - OneWire and a relay board will be the route I go down)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yawn

    The Pixel phone: a direct challenge to the iPhone - All high end Android phones are very good challenges to iPhone already

    Google Home: Amazon's Echo but in a smaller, curvier format - My Android phone already does this. "OK Google, Listen to Led Zeppelin"

    Daydream virtual reality headset: cheaper and more comfortable than Oculus and others. - Posh Google Cardboard. Oculus is essentially dead anyway (since we have seen PlaystationVR)

    Chromecast audio and video streaming: with multi-room support. - Existing Product.

    Google Wifi: a mesh system of routers aimed at stealing an emerging market. - Existing Product.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. tiggity Silver badge

    Mesh

    For a lot of people a wireless extender negates the need for mesh (unless you have IoT fetish and masses of wifi usage in which case teh intelligent channel stuff may be useful, but if you are IoT keen then you are beyond hope)

    There are some stone walls over 1 foot thick in my (old UK) house that cause wifi issues, but as ceilings / doors / windows are less of a barrier, we get away with just a single extender in a building that is very challenging for wifi.

    Granted, only about 2 phones typically using (5G) extender (same walls make indoor mobile signal a pain so wifi indoors for smartphones) so it's not exactly hard pushed, but copes fine with bandwith heavy use such as iplayer.

    Plus the extender is a small unit that just plugs into a mains socket (approx 3x the bulk of a phone charger) so only the main router is a "big beige box", and there's already plenty of companies making compact routers to compete with Google mesh main selling point of size for those that care about router aesthetics.

    So I would be less optimistic than the reviewer about Mesh huge uptake.

    1. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Mesh

      Not if you want to have any chance of watching HD TV via the internet it isn't. Wireless extenders are absolutely terrible - they introduce ridiculous latency and detrimentally affect the speed of the entire network. They should only ever be used as a last resort.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not a chance

    As others have said, I don't trust them to support anything after 12-24 months. Backwards compatibility is a 20th century way of thinking for them.

    Google do hardware and products like they're testing software.

    Then there's the issue of, I'm paying for this and yet you're still scraping all my data.

    So, no, never.

  20. Alister Silver badge

    The small white puck design, he argues, is superior to the traditional, ugly, rectangular box with antennas poking out of it. Why? Because people are more comfortable with sticking the little puck on tables rather than hiding them in cupboards.

    Only if they are happy to have a power cable trailing across their table from a power point. And as I understand it, at least one will require an ethernet connection, as well. They very carefully don't show that in the photos.

  21. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Anyone else...

    Thinks the daydream looks like they just nicked the material uses for muji sofas?

    Also as a quite valid long term question, how do you going about cleaning your vr headset of whichever brand? Surely it must get abit warm overtime and sweaty, so after some time of use possibly smell worse than a month old jock strap?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    New product suggestions

    Google Gurgle - fix your plumbing socially, or fix your social plumbing. Your choice!

    Google Gargle - for sore throats everywhere: drink the Koolaid and post your phlegm on Google+! It's the new social green!

    Google Giggle - you're having a laugh whilst feeling empty inside and we're stealing your life.

    Google Gaggle - for groups of like-minded consumers to chat about how ads have changed their lives (obviously for the better).

    Google Goggle - because nothing is clear any more without our help! And ads.

    and finally...

    Google Bing - the new better search engine!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In summary

    New google phone. Nice and very iPhone-y, but unfortunately that includes the price.

    New google home device. A bit creepy, probably better than the Amazon one but very few people will buy either - you can safely ignore it.

    New chromecast - cheap and cheerful streamer, will sell well enough, but it's not exactly exciting.

    New google Wifi devices - most people just use the router that came free from their ISP - they'll never even hear of these.

    New google VR device - it's just a more expensive version of cardboard (especially if you factor in the cost of the pixel it works with). As with all the different VR implementations, the winner will be decided by the software, not the hardware.

  24. Seajay#

    Chromecast ultra

    I love my chromecast but there's nothing really interesting about the ultra. It's just the same thing but a bit quicker and 4k capable (hands up if you've got broadband which you believe can stream 4k without massive compression. Anyone?)

    This line in the article seemed odd.

    It also has an Ethernet port, showing that Google thinks it might be able to convert people into an all-Google eco-system.

    I'm not sure I see how that follows. Ethernet isn't a google specific protocol yet is it? If it acted as a node in the mesh system I can see how that would suggest a Google ecosystem tie-in but it doesn't. Anyway, this is nothing new either there is already a google ethernet add-on for chromecast. They've just built it in on the ultra (presumably because you don't have a hope in hell of getting 4k over wifi).

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