|Google seems to believe it's big and popular enough that it can wedge its foot in the door of the market, and at least take a piece of the high-end smartphone universe. But that's actually the easy part— the last Pixel was great, and HTC made it. The real reason to take everything internal is to be able to control and improve what comes after.Saying "we're a hardware company!" and actually becoming a successful one are two radically different enterprises, though. That HTC group Google just bought? They've made great phones for a decade, but thanks to some bad carrier-exclusivity decisions and a truly terrible marketing plan, its products stayed under the radar. (Meanwhile, Samsung's marketing department bought the radar and trained it to only recognize Samsung products.) The Pixel, which is a great phone, didn't exactly take the world by storm either. Google hasn't reported exact sales, but one estimate showed a million Pixels in the market; another said between three and five million. That's due in part to Google's total inability to keep the phone in stock—another downside of not managing your own hardware—but doesn't inspire much confidence. Either way, Greengart says, "it certainly hasn’t been a dominant player in the high-end of the market. It doesn’t play at all in one of the biggest markets, China. I can’t see Huawei or Xiaomi or Oppo being worried." Apple and Samsung haven't lost sleep either.|
But Google has to try. As we've learned time and again, the best products come from companies that make both hardware and software, each working to optimize and improve the other. Samsung knows it; Apple knows it. As we enter the next phase of tech, where smartphones give way to smart watches and smart speakers and smart lightbulbs and smart cars, there's no room for too-big parts or inefficient software. The winners will be the companies who figure out how to do everything right: hardware, software, marketing, everything. Apple nailed it with phones, and became the richest company in the world. There's another chance coming.