Google is Merging Its Android and Hardware Teams With AI in Mind

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Key Takeaways

  • Google is merging its Android and hardware teams.
  • The company hopes this will lead to more innovation for AI.
  • Senior device VP Rick Osterloh will lead a new Platforms and Devices division.

Google is merging its platform and hardware teams, including those for Android and Pixel, into a single Platform and Devices unit.

The effort will unify Google’s Android, Chrome, and ChromeOS platform development (including apps like Photos) with hardware projects like Pixel devices.

The new division’s lead, former Senior VP of devices and services Rick Osterloh, told The Verge in an interview that the union was made with artificial intelligence as the focus. This would allow for faster “full-stack innovation” that builds AI into all of Google’s products, the executive said.

Accordingly, Google veteran AI researcher Jay Yagnik is coming to the new team to improve interactions between research and product developers. The company should have an easier time implementing new AI models’ features into apps, for instance.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, who previously led development of Android, Chrome, and ChromeOS, will be working on unspecified projects within Google and its parent Alphabet.

Google has long tried to fence off its hardware development from its overall Android work to avoid giving itself an unfair advantage over third-party manufacturers. When it bought Motorola in 2011, it tried to reassure Android vendors that the acquisition (which lasted until 2014) wouldn’t hurt their businesses.

That stance has evolved since the Pixel line debuted in 2016, however. Google has increasingly shaped its phones and tablets around major Android releases, and frequently gives Pixels early or exclusive access to features like automating calls. The Tensor chips in the Pixel 6 and newer devices are heavily optimized for the company’s AI features, including photography.

Google has taken care to protect its relationships with Android brands. Most recently, it let Samsung have early access to AI features like Circle to Search in the Galaxy S24 family. The team merger may help Google’s own products do more to stand out, though, and could draw in customers who want new features as quickly as possible.