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Serious Questions Raised As To Google’s Ability To Support Retailers As New Products Rolled Out

Serious questions have been raised as to whether Google has the capacity to actually support retailers such as JB Hi Fi and Harvey Norman and carriers such as Telstra after they yesterday revealed new products and a new retail strategy.

Analysts claim that Alphabet, the Company that owns Google has a history of retail strategies that either struggle or never got off the ground.

What’s more, it’s inexperienced at dealing with returns and recycling. And unlike rival Apple, the company lacks its own stores where it can showcase hardware as it pleases and instead relies on another companies’ in-store displays.

“We view go-to-market as a clear hurdle to wide acceptance, which will require investments in brand, marketing and distribution to overcome,” UBS analyst Eric Sheridan wrote in a note to investors.

Yesterday Google unveiled new hardware from smartphones and smart speakers to wireless routers.

Bloomberg said that it was a year-long odyssey that involved design, supply chain negotiations and the search for a manufacturing partner, the Company chosen was HTC.

Now the Alphabet Inc. unit must grapple with the equally daunting challenge of getting the gadgets to consumers. It
This time, the stakes are higher because the latest gadgets are vehicles for Google’s digital assistant, a key product that is chasing Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.

Google is selling their new Pixel phones at Telstra and JB Hi Fi stores and via its own online store.

Cutting distribution deals with a handful of carriers and retailers isn’t enough, according to Forrester Research analyst Thomas Husson. “Google will have to up its customer-service game and do many more distribution partnerships,” he said.

Many of Google’s past efforts at selling hardware have fizzled. When the company started its Nexus brand in 2010 it planned to market the phones online only, but sales never took off. About 200,000 of the first Nexus model sold, short of Google’s target of several million units, according to a person who worked on the device.
Before that Nexus launch, Google planned unique software features for the device, such as voice-to-text services and maps navigation, but their exclusive carrier partner in the USA, balked at the idea insiders told Bloomberg.

Then there was Android Silver. Kicked off some time in 2014, the internal project was designed to sell high-end Android handsets with partners to compete with Apple.

Google set up a retail lab for the effort, claiming an entire building near its Mountain View, California headquarters, according to former employees.

But it never got off the ground. Nikesh Arora, Google’s sales chief at the time, drove the initiative. When he left in July 2014, Android Silver was shelved. One former Google executive called it a boondoggle.
Google’s new smartphone unit approached carriers and retailers early this year, according to a person familiar with the situation. Some carriers peppered Google executives with questions about handling phone returns and technical support, the person said. At the time, Google did not appear ready to take on these aspects of the phone hardware business, according to this person.

Google executives on the hardware team say the company is on a “journey,” gaining experience and capabilities with each smartphone generation. And Apple only began touting the iPhone’s full life cycle after a few generations.

At the Google launch event yesterday, new hardware chief Rick Osterloh reassured the audience that the company was serious about the move. “We’re in it for the long run,” he said.

About nine months after initial talks with carriers, Google rolled out its flavour of technical support: Pixels have built-in chat support where customer-service reps can take over smartphone screens to identify problems.

Google will be responsible for returns and recycling and is building a supply chain that can re-absorb faulty and rejected devices, Osterloh said in a recent interview.