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A new era: Google buys HTC

Well, hello: The Google Pixel 2

Google’s recent announcement that it’s buying into smartphone manufacturer HTC did come as a surprise. It’s not the first time Google bought a hardware company. Their first venture was spending $12.5 billion into Motorola Mobility back in 2012 although it eventually sold it off to Lenovo after two years.

The acquisition of HTC isn’t as straightforward as Motorola. In fact, one can consider this move as an acquihire -- moving about half of the 4,000 HTC employees and turning them into Googlers to focus on the internal smartphone development.

HTC will continue to operate independently as HTC and will be left with the remaining 2,000 employees developing the HTC Verve and smartphones.

Meanwhile, Google’s new set of employees, all worth $1.1 billion,  will be working on the Pixel line. This has become more apparent after Google launched a suite of devices last week including flagship smartphones Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL as well as a new Chromebook, the Pixel Book.

The event could have been the one with the most number of devices announced – a new Google Home Mini and Home Max, the Google Clips camera, a new Daydream View and the Pixel Buds wireless earphones. This is the biggest hardware push we’ve seen from Google in a very long time, a sign that they’re serious about getting into the hardware game.

The reason why Google picked HTC among the many vendors could be one of few possibilities: 

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Gadgets and more: The Google gadget lineup

• HTC and Google have been collaborating with the Pixel for some time so getting the R&D team would significantly provide focus in developing the Pixel phone as worthy rival to Apple’s iPhone;

• HTC has struggled for many years in the smartphone business despite the fact that it was the first to have an Android phone back in 2008 (the HTC Dream or the Google G1). The $1.1 billion purchase price in exchange for talent means the team’s efforts will not go to waste and HTC could really use the money to aggressively market their own devices. Google has a soft spot for underdogs.

The announcement of a new line-up of Pixel devices also meant Google needed to expand its distribution to other countries. New countries added to the list included Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

At the moment, you can now browse the Google Store for the Philippines, but only the Chromecast is listed as available. Google is also not selling them directly online. Instead, it points you to a list of local resellers although that link is also blank as of the moment.

With the 2,000-strong employees working on the Pixel devices, Google is putting serious money and attention into their hardware business.  The recent product launch actually feels like the typical Apple event, and that’s a very telling one.

No doubt, Google is stretching its muscles and going after Apple’s turf head-on. Apple’s strength is seamlessly integrating its software and hardware products, and Google is definitely going towards the same path. It’s certainly going to be more exciting to watch both of them from here on then.

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