Google is changing the way its Devices & Services teams work on Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit hardware. They told their employees about this change today, and Google also said it in a statement to 9to5Google.
Before, the Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit teams were separate and independent. They worked on different things like design, hardware engineering, software, UI, etc. Google’s hardware effort was like having a small company for phones, another for smart home, and a third for wearables. This was because Google bought Nest (in 2014) and then Fitbit.
Now, Google is moving to a functional organization model where, for example, there will be one team for hardware engineering for Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit. This means there will be one person in charge of that part of products for all Google hardware.
We don’t know yet if this will make the products more consistent across the different shapes and sizes, with the Pixel phone team mostly staying the same today from what we’ve heard. When we look at the tech world, Apple has a similar functional organization model with one Software Engineering, Services, Hardware Technologies, and Hardware Engineering team for everything.
Because of this change, we’ve found out that Fitbit co-founders James Park and Eric Friedman, and some other Fitbit leaders, are leaving Google.
After Google bought Fitbit in January 2021, James Park kept his position as a vice president and general manager of Fitbit. He later revealed the Pixel Watch and Pixel Watch 2 for Google, with his final appearance in October. Google’s other wearables besides smartwatches and trackers are the Pixel Buds series of earphones.
This change will make Google fire a few hundred people from Devices & Services, but most of them are from the first-party augmented reality hardware team. This means Google is giving up on making its own AR hardware and is focusing on the OEM-partnership model. The workers will have the chance to find new roles within the company, and Google is giving them its normal support.
We said last February that Google moved its AR work to the Android and hardware teams after a previous executive left. Google still has Raxium, a microLED display startup it bought in 2022.
In general, Google says it is still “deeply committed to other AR initiatives” and mentions existing AR features in Lens and Maps, and product partnerships. The last one is about the Android XR partnership with Samsung to make a headset.