Google has completed its acquisition of HTC’s smartphone division for $1.1 billion, according to Bloomberg.
The search giant had previously been relying on HTC to produce its Pixel smartphone, which has been a commercial success since its launch in October 2016.
And although an actual, definitive number for unit sales is hard to find, AndroidCentral.com calculated that at least 2 million Pixel phones were sold by the middle of 2017.
So, by now, total unit sales of the Pixel smartphones is probably around the 5 million mark, although that’s just speculation on our part.
And while that might be a healthy figure, it’s clearly way behind the leaders in the smartphone market. It’s not even worth finding out unit sales for Apple and Samsung – they’re just huge, literally in the billions globally.
According to PCMag.com, Apple and Samsung account for more than 70 per cent of all the smartphones sold in the US.
It’s difficult to see Google reaching those levels sales-wise, especially as there are many other companies in the same market, including Huawei, LG, and a whole load of others.
However, the smartphone market is difficult to ignore, partly because it’s so huge, but mostly because the device itself is a potential carrier of, and an important platform for, many of the technologies in which Google excels.
Google is widely believed to have the most powerful and sophisticated artificial intelligence offerings, perhaps most crucially in natural language processing and voice recognition.
The technical difficulties of building a computing device and software that can process and understand human speech and converse accurately are proving too challenging for developers at the moment.
But most people would probably accept that it’s only a matter of time before the tech companies solve them. And Google needs to have a physical presence in people’s lives and businesses – through smartphones as well as other computing devices – if it is to take its AI technology to them.
Otherwise, no matter how far ahead Google is with its AI software or hardware, it’s unlikely to get a look in to some markets, especially the consumer market, especially if it relies on other smartphone makers.
Apple and Samsung would always favour their own software on their smartphones. And with both of them investing heavily in AI, it’s clear that this is the area tech companies are prioritising.
For Google CEO Sundar Pichai Sundar Pichai, AI is more significant to human development since before the missing link.
Speaking at Davos – the annual gathering of rich, powerful and influential people from all over the world – and quoted on CNN, Pichai said: “AI is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on. I think of it as something more profound than electricity or fire.”
As well as completing the HTC acquisition, Bloomberg reports that Google has reached deals with 2,000 “smartphone specialists” in Taiwan to help it “chase Apple”.
One of the key areas of competition between the two tech giganticos is going to be the development of what Google calls “custom silicon”.
By that, Google means chips built specifically with AI tasks in mind.
This is the same as what Apple is said to be doing. Apple is currently developing more of its own chips for its devices, from its iPhones to its desktops.
According to several reports in the media, Apple is planning to launch three new Mac desktop computers this year featuring its own chips.
Previously it was using chips from a variety of suppliers, including Intel, Qualcomm, ARM and AMD, to name a few.
Samsung, too, has been developing a variety of critical technologies for the future, and currently works with Apple on the iPhone X, as does Sony and a whole host of companies which you would otherwise think of as Apple’s competitors.