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By Julia Love
Oct 4 Alphabet Inc's Google is
expected to unveil new smartphones at an event on Tuesday, the
company's latest effort to sell consumers on a Google-branded
device and to challenge Apple Inc at the high end of
Analysts predict the San Francisco product launch will also
showcase other Google hardware initiatives, including a
voice-controlled speaker system called Home to challenge
Amazon.com Inc's Echo device, and a virtual reality
The most eagerly expected offering is a pair of smartphones
released under the Pixel brand, replacing the Nexus line. While
most vendors other than Apple use Google's Android operating
system, the company has for years toyed with various approaches
to building its own hardware without alienating manufacturers.
Google has sold Nexus phones since 2010, but the devices
have gained little traction in a market dominated by Samsung
Analysts attribute the lackluster sales to poor
distribution, as the phones typically are not available through
network carriers, the channel most U.S. consumers rely on.
Google also owned the Motorola smartphone business briefly
before selling it to Lenovo Group.
Because its mobile software is available so widely, Google
has struggled to distinguish its own devices, said analyst Jan
Dawson of Jackdaw Research.
Google "wants to have this end-to-end experience, but it's
not clear that people really want that," Dawson said.
The new Pixel phones are expected to cost more than $600,
putting them at the high end of the market, where Apple is the
Dawson is more optimistic about the Home device - unveiled
at the company's developer conference this year - which works
with home entertainment systems and responds to voice commands.
The device represents an important move in an intensifying
battle between Google and other tech giants to establish the
dominant "digital assistant."
Google Assistant, Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri are vying
for supremacy as more people search the web and make purchases
online through voice commands, which may eventually supplant
keyboards and touchscreens as the primary means of controlling
some digital devices.
Although Amazon was first to market, Google can capture
plenty of sales in the nascent category, Dawson said. But as
with smartphones, distribution may pose a challenge.
"Amazon has the advantage of being able to put this on the
home page of the biggest e-commerce site in the world," he said.
Analyst Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies said he also
expects Google to discuss its virtual reality headset, Daydream,
at the event. He said the company may also reveal plans to
combine its Chrome operating system for laptops and its Android
mobile software, helping developers build for more devices.
(Reporting by Julia Love; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Bill