Job Reductions and Fitbit Executives Departure: Google Restructures Voice Assistance and Hardware Divisions

The affected divisions include voice-activated Google Assistant as part of the knowledge and information product team restructuring; and the Devices and Services PA (DSPA) team that manages Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit hardware. Some teams are continuing to make these kinds of organizational changes, which include some role eliminations globally,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. The report also mentioned that Google will now have one core hardware engineering team instead of separate teams working on Pixel, Fitbit, and Nest. Separately, the company has also let go of people working on the Google Assistant team, as reported by Semafor. Last year, Google had rolling layoffs in different teams including the Waze mapping service in June, its recruiting team in September, and its news division in October.

Google is undergoing a major shakeup, resulting in layoffs that reach across multiple divisions, including engineering and services.

According to a statement from the company, the affected divisions include those working on the voice-activated Google Assistant as part of a restructuring in the knowledge and information product team. Additionally, the Devices and Services PA (DSPA) team, responsible for managing hardware products such as Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit, is also facing cuts.

While Google confirmed the job cuts, the company downplayed the impact, stating that they were part of larger organizational changes. A spokesperson for Google stated, “To best position us for these opportunities, throughout the second half of 2023, a number of our teams made changes to become more efficient and work better, and to align their resources to their biggest product priorities. Some teams are continuing to make these kinds of organizational changes, which include some role eliminations globally.”

The Alphabet Worker Union, however, has a different perspective. In a tweet, they condemned the layoffs as “needless” and expressed concern over the company’s billion-dollar profits in the face of these job cuts. Their tweet reads, “Tonight, Google began another round of needless layoffs. Our members and teammates work hard every day to build great products for our users, and the company cannot continue to fire our coworkers while making billions every quarter. We won’t stop fighting until our jobs are safe!”

Google has also made the decision to disband most of its AR hardware team and instead collaborate with other Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

As first reported by 9to5Google, Google will now have one core hardware engineering team, rather than separate teams for Pixel, Fitbit, and Nest. A TechCrunch report confirmed that Fitbit co-founders James Park and Eric Friedman are also leaving the company as part of this restructuring.

Google’s acquisition of Fitbit for $2.1 billion in 2019 was a major move in the company’s strategy to expand its own offerings. However, it took two years for regulatory approval and was only finalized in 2021. Since then, Google has been integrating Fitbit products into its own lineup. For example, last year, the search giant began prompting Fitbit users to migrate to Google accounts.

In addition to the changes in the hardware team, Google has also let go of employees working on their Google Assistant team, as reported by Semafor. As part of their efforts to expand Assistant “beyond voice,” Google began infusing AI-powered features through Bard last year. During the Pixel event in October, Google announced that Assistant would now even be able to search through apps like Gmail and Drive to respond to specific queries related to emails and files.

This latest round of layoffs adds to the ongoing cuts at Google, which had previously affected the Waze mapping service in June, the recruiting team in September, and the news division in October. The company’s most recent company-wide layoff comes just a year after it let go of around 12,000 roles, or 6% of its workforce, in January 2023.

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Max Chen

Max Chen is an AI expert and journalist with a focus on the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies. He has a background in computer science and is known for his clear and concise writing on complex technical topics. He has also written extensively on the potential risks and benefits of AI, and is a frequent speaker on the subject at industry conferences and events.

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