Leadership Shakeup at Google Could Threaten One of the Pixel’s Greatest Strengths

Photograph: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)Google {hardware} chief Rick Osterloh as soon as mentioned he hoped Google could be “promoting merchandise in excessive volumes in 5 years.” That was three years in the past. After disappointing gross sales of the Pixel Four and a latest shakeup throughout the Pixel workforce’s administration, Google’s aspirations to change into a serious participant within the {hardware} house could have simply hit a serious setback.At an all-hands assembly for the Pixel workforce held previous to the Pixel 4’s launch final fall, based on a brand new report from The Data, Osterloh expressed issues concerning the improvement of Google’s flagship telephone, comparable to its middling battery capability and “knowledgeable employees about his personal misgivings.” Going again even additional to August 2019, Pixel common supervisor Mario Queiroz was reportedly moved right into a extra obscure position throughout the {hardware} workforce earlier than finally leaving Google for cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks in January 2020.However maybe the largest blow to the Pixel workforce got here this March when Marc Levoy, distinguished engineer and one of many leaders of the Pixel digital camera workforce, quietly left Google—a transfer which had gone unreported till The Data’s latest story. Earlier than he began at Google, Levoy was a professor at Stanford, the place he labored on a mission that will finally change into Google Avenue View. Whereas he didn’t invent the sector, Levoy can be credited with coining the time period “computational pictures,” which is the method of utilizing algorithms, machine studying, and laptop processing to boost conventional pictures. Levoy joined Google in 2014 and moved on to change into one of many heads of the Pixel digital camera workforce. One of many Pixel line’s biggest strengths since its launch has been the picture high quality of its cameras, due partly to options like Google’s HDR+ processing and its low-light Night time Sight picture mode. Final yr, I had the chance to interview Levoy and Pixel digital camera product supervisor Isaac Reynolds, and even again then, it was clear the affect Google’s strategy to smartphone pictures had had on its rival telephone makers, together with Apple, Samsung, and Huawei.Options like devoted night time modes have now change into commonplace fare on high-end and mid-range telephones, with the tech just lately beginning to trickle right down to price range handsets as properly. The identical goes for HDR pictures, which not too way back was an non-obligatory enhancement, however over the previous couple years has change into the default picture setting on most telephones. From an outsider’s perspective, Levoy leaving looks as if an enormous loss for the Pixel digital camera workforce. As for Osterloh’s bigger criticism concerning the Pixel line’s design and options, based mostly on rumors that declare the Pixel 5 will include a chip and specs extra according to a mid-range telephone, it seems Google is already working to additional differentiate its flagship from extra conventional high-end units. Whereas Google’s Pixel telephone could not have loved the breakout success that Google could have needed, it’s a bit too early to depend the corporate out but—even with the latest lack of proficient workers. With the success of different Google units, just like the Nest Hub and Google Nest Mini 2, it looks as if the corporate isn’t actually struggling with regards to making its higher portfolio of units interesting.