This week Google announced that it is effectively lessening the scope of Android Things going forward.
Google did not particularly provide much reason as to why this is happening but instead said the focus of Android Things in the future will be on smart speakers and smart displays, specifically.
An area that Google says it and its partners have found success in.
Although not outright saying it, this is akin to a drop in importance for Android Things from Google’s perspective. As this was first described and branded as Android ‘for all the things.’ So much so that the name is fairly self-explanatory in this sense - it is Android (for) Things.
However, with the scope having now been narrowed in the way that it has, the once-promised Internet of Things (IoT) platform is now simply a platform for speakers and displays.
Google first announced Android Things back in late 2016 and this in itself was in effect a re-branded or evolved version of “Brillo.” Back in 2015, Brillo was announced as Google’s original IoT platform solution along with "Weave" - the protocol designed to run in conjunction with Brillo.
In spite of its 2016 announcement, Android Things was only made available in a developer preview form initially and that pre-commercial release status remained in place for a fair amount of time, considering the explosion that occurred at the same time for the IoT market in general.
It was not until May, 2018 when Android Things was released in its legitimate and commercial-ready “version 1.0” form.
One of the likely reasons that Google has opted to put a cap on the scope of Android Things is another of its products - Google Assistant.
While the two are not mutually exclusive, over the same time-frame that Android Things has been in development, Google Assistant has grown extensively and is now used with many IoT devices. So it could be just the case that the need for an IoT-based OS in the form of Android Things is less of an important ambition as it might have been when Android Things, or even Brillo was first embarked on.
For example, earlier in 2018 Google announced yet another IoT-related platform, ‘Google Assistant Connect.’ One that was specifically designed to extend the footprint of Google Assistant and especially when it comes to single-function devices.
Google did make the point that although this is now more of a smart speaker and display platform, Android Things will still remain available as “a platform for experimenting with and building smart, connected devices.” It is just not going to culminate in any new product launches outside of the speaker and display market in the future.
Interestingly, it remains even unclear how long the latter will be the case now, as although most of the current Google-approved smart displays on the market are powered by Android Things, not all of them are. Namely, Google’s own Home Hub was found to be running on the company’s Cast platform instead.
For now though, it would seem that third-party speakers and displays will be where you’ll find Google’s once-touted Android OS for everything.