Google announced a bunch of new hardware products today, and as I watched their presentation, it seemed clear that they wanted to be taken seriously, once and for all, as a hardware manufacturer. But then I read a statement by a tech journalist that made me question their commitment.
Among the products announced today was a wireless router called Google Wifi. It’s a simple Wi-Fi router that can be used on its own, or in a set of three units to more adequately cover larger homes with wireless internet.
Here’s the quote that gave me pause (it’s from an article by The Verge’s Dieter Bohn):
Google wants to prove it can do it better than anybody, then use that knowledge to let other hardware manufacturers make more routers using its system.
This is where it falls apart for me.
Google is asking us to buy their hardware. This is the kind of equipment that you want to work (without even a hiccup) for at least five years. But even that seems too short. If you spend $300 on these, you don’t want them to break or get buggy for a long, long time.
However, according to Bohn’s statement, Google is trying to prove that their routers are the best — primarily for the purpose of showing other companies how to make the same kind of product.
As a potential buyer, this is not what I want to hear. Not at all. I want to hear that if I spend $300 on their routers, that I will have a home filled with super-fast, trouble-free Wi-Fi for years to come. Then, when my system reaches the end of its life, Google will have a far-better router that I could buy from them, which would provide me with another excellent decade of Wi-Fi.
From a business perspective, the statement I quoted is illogical. Wouldn’t Google want to prove that they’re the best so that we know we should buy Google routers, and only Google routers? Instead, this feels like a temporary experiment. What happens after they pass their IP to ASUS and other manufacturers? One likely outcome is that Google leaves the router business.
From a consumer’s perspective, the statement should make you wary. Google’s track record with hardware (and other kinds of “projects”) is shoddy. They’re famous for turning their back and abandoning. They do it regularly, and have so for years.
Even the name feels noncommittal. Google Wifi. Google Reader. Google Glass.
I deeply respect Google and I wish them continued success, but if they want me to buy their hardware, they need to convince me that they’re in it for the long haul. I need to know that the Google Wifi I buy in 2016 will still be actively supported in 2023. Otherwise, I’d rather pay a little more for an eero.