The company is already a major player in the mobile device market through its Android software. To help promote Android, Google also has designed a line of smartphones and tablets under the Nexus brand. The company also owns smartphone maker Motorola Mobility, which it bought for $12.4 billion last year.
Google’s deepening involvement in hardware has ignited speculation that the company might eventually open its own chain of stores to sell its products, just as Apple and Microsoft already do. Pichai didn’t address that in a response to a question on that topic at Thursday’s event.
Apple and Microsoft already have been hurt by the increased competition from Google. Most smartphones and tablets running on Google’s free Android software cost less than Apple’s iPhone and iPad, helping to siphon sales away from those devices. Sales of PCs running on Windows also have been sagging during the past year, partly because consumers are relying more on Android devices.
Google says it expects to make a small profit on each Pixel sold, but the company figures to make more money from the online traffic delivered from the machines. Like other Chromebooks, the Pixel is set up to automatically use all of Google’s services, including its search engine, Gmail and YouTube video site.