Google united its hardware groups into a new division run by Motorola veteran Rick Osterloh to better design and propel its gadgets into the world.
Osterloh will oversee products including Nexus phones and tablets, wearable computer Glass (now called Project Aura), Internet router OnHub, audio and video Cast devices, and experimental mobile hardware developed by its Advanced Technology and Projects group.
Google’s hardware efforts are varied and have not been well tied together. The Alphabet Inc. unit has never fully committed to designing or making its own devices, preferring to let other companies handle those often less-profitable tasks. It acquired handset maker Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2012 but sold it in 2014 to Lenovo.
However, as smartphones and other mobile devices take on more complex tasks such as virtual and augmented reality, software and hardware has to work better together. That’s something Apple Inc. does well and Google may need to improve, with Osterloh’s help.
Prior to joining Google this month, Osterloh was president of Motorola Mobility both under Google’s ownership and Lenovo’s.
Osterloh will need to better link Google’s hardware projects together, while working more closely with software teams. Much of the software development for all this hardware is run by Hiroshi Lockheimer, the senior vice president in charge of Google’s Android and Chrome operating systems.
He’ll also have to tackle the longer-term challenge of what connected devices will be popular beyond smartphones. Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said Thursday that the concept of the "device" may fade away.
Osterloh’s appointment follows Google’s appointment of VMware co-founder Diane Greene to oversee its cloud computing, work-based software, and enterprise-focused businesses together. Similar to Osterloh’s job, she is tasked with unifying Google’s various enterprise efforts, speeding development.
Re/code reported Osterloh’s appointment earlier.