Have you noticed that Google (or rather its parent company Alphabet) has started designing and manufacturing ‘Made by Google’ branded hardware?

Things like the Pixel/2/XL smartphone, Home mini/max speakers, Pixel earbuds, Pixel Book Chromebook, VR Daydream headsets, Clip camera, and more. Made by Google (website here) is the new catchcry.

All it did before this was simply sign off on Nexus designs made by HTC and LG.

Some of the Google hardware is quite good, and some is, well, adequate.

Google seems content to run things up the flagpole and see if they fly. It is almost as if it does not care if a product sells as long as it has market presence. Analysists comment that Google can well afford to experiment and walk away from any hardware disasters it may have.

Made by Google has great ideas, but sometimes the execution falters

For example, Pixel 2/XL may have a great camera, but the phone hardware suffers in comparison to its competitors. Maybe version 3 will be the phone it really wanted to build.

The real reason it is investing in hardware is simple. It cannot afford for other companies like Amazon (Alexa) or Samsung (Bixby) to succeed in areas that it considers its turf – like Google Assistant.

It also must do everything it can to stop the spread of Apple’s very profitable iOS ecosystem. A limited version of Google Assistant is available for iOS, but it is no serious threat to Siri.

There are signs this grand ‘Made by Google’ experiment may be over and it is getting serious

Google announced that former Sony and Xbox executive Phil Harrison has joined its hardware unit. He reports to Rick Osterloh, Google senior vice president for hardware. The team designs Pixel smartphones, Chromebook laptops, Home smart speakers and Daydream virtual reality headsets.

Analysists are saying Phil is the answer to a longer-term vision that brings together all their scattered hardware efforts into something big.

Then there is the recent US$1.1 billion acquisition of HTC’s R&D division (that designed Pixel/2/XL) comprising transfer of over 2,000 engineers — that’s around 20% of HTC’s engineering team. Google will also receive a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property. It also gives Google a new engineering base in Taipei, Taiwan, where HTC is located.

Senior Vice President of Hardware, Rick Osterloh, said in the blog post, “As our hardware business enters its third year, we remain committed to building and investing for the long run. Today, we start digging in with our new teammates, guided by the mission to create radically helpful experiences for people around the world, by combining the best of Google’s AI, software and hardware.”

It has also announced the opening of an AI lab in Beijing, a manufacturing base in Shenzhen (the Silicon Valley of China), a patent licencing deal with Tencent and more Chinese investment.

Made by Google is a way to defend its turf

Most of what it does relates to revenue from search via desktop, mobile and now voice. In 2016 the bulk of its US$89.5 billion revenue came from its proprietary advertising service, Google AdWords and AdSense.