There is a (not so much) small revolution at Google: the Android team and the one for hardware products (Pixel, mainly) come together in one, under the aegis of the historic Pixel boss Rick Osterloh, who we remember comes from Motorola. The team will formally be called Products and Devices; Hiroshi Lockheimer, who led the development of Android for a few years, will take on other tasks within the Alphabet/Google group.

The key to understanding this decision is, guess what?, artificial intelligence. Osterloh, who along with CEO Sundar Pichai announced the news in the past few hours, says that by consolidating the two departments it will be possible to implement full-stack innovations when needed, reducing internal bureaucracy and simplifying communication. Osterloh gives the example of the Google Camera:

“You had to have a thorough understanding of hardware systems, from sensors to ISPs, at all levels of the software stack. And, at the time, all the early HDR and ML models that did camera processing… and I think hardware/software/AI integration really showed how AI could totally transform the user experience. This was important. And it’s even more true today.”

The same reasoning applies to GPUs (which of course Google develops more with interest in AI than in gaming, multimedia and the like). Google is investing a lot of resources to compete with NVIDIA, and having closer contact between those who develop the chip and those who then create the machine learning algorithms will make it easier to communicate their respective needs and feedback.

Osterloh, Lockheimer and Pichai explain that this big merger of teams had been in the works for about two years, and that finally now all the stars have aligned to implement it. After all, Osterloh and more generally Google has put artificial intelligence in the foreground since the first Pixel smartphone, now almost nine years ago. However, it is interesting to note how, in the past, Google has purposely kept the two teams separate to avoid the risk of other Android device makers feeling overshadowed.

It is clear that today (but in reality it has already been for a couple of years) Google’s ambitions and interests have changed radically, and if before the Pixels could be a bit niche products, now the intention is to become real protagonists. Of course, you can’t improvise as a device manufacturer overnight, especially at this level, but by now the Pixel initiative has reached an excellent level of maturity.