As we are just inside 3 weeks to go before Google’s I/O developer conference makes its return after a full cancellation of the event in 2020, Sundar Pichai – Alphabet & Google’s CEO – took to prepared remarks in a quarterly earnings call to highlight a few interesting things going on at Google right now. The 45 minute call discussed Google’s big year-over-year growth as ad spending leveled out and returned to normal along with some other highlights like YouTube Shorts views being up over 100%. Early remarks in the call sparked some interest, however, as Pichai made a decently-bold statement that we should expect “significant product updates and announcements” at Google I/O 2021.
Our product releases are returning to a regular cadence. Particularly excited that our developer event – Google I/O – is back this year, all virtual, and free for everyone on May 18th – 20th. We’ll have significant product updates and announcements, and I invite you all to tune in.Sundar Pichai – Alphabet & Google CEO
Being an earnings call to investors, part of the job is to show why revenue is up and also show why it should keep moving in that direction. So, with that in mind, it is probably a good idea to take this small statement with a grain of salt. Google has some good hardware in the pipeline and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for the Pixel 6 with Google’s custom silicon inside, but if things are in fact returning to a regular cadence as Pichai stated, I think expecting this phone or its custom GS101 chip to get highlighted at Google I/O in 3 weeks is not realistic.
On the other hand, the only real product we know that is in line to be ready for I/O is the Pixel 5a and, frankly, that phone won’t be significant in many ways. Actually, it looks like it will be a bit odd and out of place with the current lineup of Pixel phones on the market. So what would Pichai be alluding to? What updated products could hit at I/O?
With Google’s penchant for leaks, it is hard for me to really feel like there’s anything big on the horizon. This fall? Sure. But in 3 weeks from now? I just don’t see it happening. So instead, we can talk about dream scenarios where Google has managed to work on some new hardware behind the scenes and actually kept the lid on all of it.
A new Pixelbook
We’ve had a couple devices in the works that could be some sort of Google-made Chromebook with ‘Lindar’s lightbar and ‘Halvor’s Assistant Key specifically. I don’t see either of those devices being ready for release, but they could be announced for sure. There was an infamous year where Google gave the Chromebook Pixel to every Google I/O attendee in 2013 and they’ve historically made big Chrome OS announcements at the yearly event, so there’s always a chance that we Chromies might get some new hardware news in a few weeks. I just don’t see it as a likely scenario.
Google Home Products
With Google’s recent release of the Nest Audio and the removal of the Google Home Max from their store, there’s a chance we could see a new, larger speaker in the Nest family. With the new Nest Hub just released, however, it feels like an odd time to do that. After all, if you were going to release a new product within weeks of another that is in the same family, wouldn’t you just put them together? Also, I again have to stress that nothing has leaked about an upcoming Nest device, so I’m not holding my breath on this one.
We do expect the Pixel 5a to be announced, but that is hardly ‘significant’. What would be significant, however, would be some official news on what is coming for the Pixel 6. They could tease it a bit and then give some real info to developers about taking full advantage of Google’s in-house SoC. They wouldn’t necessarily have to show the phone off, but they could thoughtfully tease a few details about performance and other things they are trying to accomplish by attacking Android from a vertically-integrated standpoint. Again, I’m inclined to think this won’t happen, but I can hope, right?
Outside of these possibilities, there could be other things to announce that we simply aren’t even aware of at this point. Google is a huge company and there’s a chance that home automation or IoT items no one is tracking could show up at the conference. It’s important to remember who this event is for, however. I/O is first and foremost a developer conference and is geared towards showcasing all the new things hardware and software can do to make people’s lives better. With that in mind, I do think that these significant product announcements will involve hardware and software that developers are using to make a living right now. That means Nest, Android and Chrome OS. So, I suppose we’ll just have to sit back and see what happens in just under 3 weeks from now.