Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Facebook have new gadgets for the holidays
Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President for Android, Chrome and Apps at Google Inc., speaking on Monday, September 15, 2014, during the launch of the Android One smartphone in New Delhi, India.
Kuni Takahashi | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Christmas shopping season is upon us, and all the big tech companies are picking up your wallet.
In the past two months, Google has introduced new Pixel phones, Microsoft has launched Surface tablets and laptops, Facebook has introduced a new smart display called Portal along with Oculus VR headsets, and Amazon has a number gadgets that work with its language assistant Alexa.
These are the major providers of software and web services trying to play in the hardware world in which Apple owns the purse of the consumer. For example, according to IDC, Google's pixel devices have less than 1
% of the world market share.
While Google and Microsoft need to work with multiple partners to build hardware for their operating systems, Apple controls both devices and software and can dictate the entire user experience. This is the basis for Apple's annual revenue of $ 266 billion.
However, there are strategic reasons for large software companies to bring their own hardware to market, even if they do not lose billions in profits, like Apple.
"As software, these companies have earned a reputation for delivering equally good experiences," said Ramon Llamas, research director at IDC. "When you combine them with your own branded hardware, you experience exactly what the vendor has envisioned, and there are a significant number of loyalists in each category.
That's why the world's most valuable software companies want to sell their hardware.  Pixel 4 renderings published by iGeeksBlog.
Google earns almost all online advertising revenue, so why is it launching new Chromebook laptops and Pixel phones this week? Especially if giants like it Samsung and Lenovo already use their Android and Chromebook software?
Google wants users to be able to access a variety of gadgets to access services like Search or Gmail, all at once Chromebook, a phone, or a voice assistant in your earphones or in a smart speaker in your home.
This is a concept Google referred to as "ambient computing". Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies wrote this week: "The devices are not the end product, the technology in them is."
Google Hardware Director Rick Osterloh said, "Our vision for ambient computing is to be at home, Creating a consistent, consistent experience at work or on the go, whenever you need it. "
One way to accomplish Google's goals with pixel phones is to offer a niche product that uses unvarnished Google software can be accessed. Partners like Samsung often add their own touch to Android to differentiate themselves, like Samsung's Bixby Voice Assistant. This may hinder Google's efforts in the context of ambient computing.
"As a software and search engine, Google has acquired the loyalty of millions of people who only want to use this Google feature. Emagazine.credit-suisse.com/app/art…1007 & lang = DE Microsoft sells one Amount of Surface Computers: $ 5.7 Billion Year Ends
That 's at least a good reason why Microsoft has released laptops and tablets, including Surface Pro X, Surface Laptop 3 and Smart Earbuds Earlier this month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said, "There's a lot of hardware gain."
However, Surface accounts for nearly 5% of Microsoft's total revenue – it generates more revenue from LinkedIn and cloud services and it is the best known for its Windows and Office software.
The world's largest computer manufacturers are also buying Windows software to power their laptops and tablets, much more than the original sell provider hardware from Microsoft. According to IDC, Microsoft's Surface accounts for less than 5% of the global tablet business.
One reason why Microsoft invests in its Surface range is that it gives its partners an insight into where Microsoft Windows intends to lead in the future. It's much easier to implement intricate new features and new designs when a business controls both hardware and software.
"With every massive change in technology, or when it changes, so does the form factor, and that's what we're starting to see here," said Panos Panay, Microsoft's chief product officer, earlier this week.
Two hardware articles announced last month underline this point: Surface Duo and Surface Neo.
Surface Neo is set to continue selling by the end of 2020, and it's a dual-screen foldable laptop. The idea is that, thanks to a completely new design, it can be a powerful computer that you use on the go.
Surface Duo is a Falttelefon with Google's Android, which is expected to come in a year in the trade. It's the latest signal that Microsoft wants to tightly integrate its Windows desktop system to work well with Android smartphones.
The Amazon Echo Loop is an experimental product that lets you talk to Alexa from a finger ring. Amazon introduced it at a Seattle event on September 25, 2019.
CNBC | Todd Haselton
Amazon's hardware strategy is to bring things to market and see what's in it.
The company also hopes users will be amazed by its language assistant. At a kick-off event in September, many new products were introduced, including headphones, speakers, wearables and even computer goggles. The one commonality among the products? They can all summon Alexa.
As a result, Amazon had a dominant market share of 75% in smart speakers worldwide. As the number of voice interfaces continues to increase, Amazon has the advantage.
"Hardware is the starting point, but Alexa is what keeps you from coming back," Llamas said. "It's not so much that they're trying to make money with this hardware, if they're making it, it's probably not that much, instead you'll go to Alexa or Amazon to make the next purchase."
When a single product fails to reach consumers, Amazon quietly shuts down the product line. But when it starts, Amazon's goal is to bring Alexa everywhere.
"Not all companies have this luxury," said Llamas. "It helps make Amazon billions, so if a product fails, the lights will still be on tomorrow."
Amazon's hardware strategy is a bit different from Microsoft's and Google's, both of which have massive computer platforms. While Amazon released Fire tablets on a custom version of Android, it never had a gateway platform like the other technology giants.
The Facebook portal has a web browser.
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Facebook once wanted to build a phone.
This project failed and the company remained without control over the hardware and was susceptible to changes by companies such as Google and Apple.
Facebook is looking for the next big platform. It invests in smart displays like Facebook Portal and Virtual and Augmented Reality.
And it tells the world about his plans.
"I have been saying for some time that Augmented and Virtual Reality will be the next big computer platform," said CEO Mark Zuckerberg on stage at the Oculus Connect 6 conference last month. "You know, there's just so much you can do with apps without also forming and improving the underlying platform."
Facebook is spending real money on this project – it bought Oculus for $ 2 billion and paid between $ 500 and $ 1 billion for CTRL Labs, a early-stage venture that could provide the technical foundation for controlling computer goggles without a keyboard or mouse.
It's early for Facebook. Portal has only 1% of the smart display market. And while Oculus is one of the market leaders in the VR market with a market share of 27% according to IDC, it is still a very small company.
WATCH: Facebook Expands Portal Devices with Workplace Assistance