Google Home Hub Is Nothing Like Other Google Smart Displays (arstechnica.com)

On Tuesday, Google announced the Google Home Hub, a 7-inch display that gives you visual information, making it easier to control smart home appliances and view photos and the weather. The unusual thing about it is that it doesn’t run the smart display software that it introduced for third-party OEMs. Ars Technica explains: First, let’s talk about what the third-party smart displays run. When Google created its smart display software, it also came up with a turnkey solution for OEMs. So far, we’ve seen Lenovo, LG, and Samsung’s JBL all produce devices on the same basic platform. Just like with smartphones, these devices are all an extension of the Android/Qualcomm partnership — they run Android Things on Qualcomm’s SD624 Home Hub Platform. Android Things is Google’s stripped-down version of Android that is purpose-built for IoT products, and the third-party smart displays are the first commercial devices to run the OS.

Unlike regular phone Android, Android Things is not customizable by third-parties. All Android Things devices use an OS image direct from Google, and Google centrally distributes updates to all Android Things devices for three years. Android Things doesn’t really have an interface. It’s designed to get a device up and running and show a single app, which on the smart displays is the Google Smart Display app. Qualcomm’s “Home Hub” platform was purposely built to run Android Things and this Google Assistant software — the SD624 is for smart displays, while the less powerful SDA212 is for speakers. When it came time to build the Google Home Hub, Google didn’t use any of this. After talking to Google’s VP of product management, Diya Jolly, Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo discovered that the Home Hub is actually built on Google’s Cast platform and uses an Amlogic chip instead of Qualcomm’s SD624 Home Hub Platform.

When asked why Google was using a totally different platform from the third parties, Jolly told Amadeo, “There’s no particular reason. We just felt we could bring the experience to bear with Cast, and the experiences are the same. We would have easily given the third-parties Cast if they wanted it, but I think most developers are comfortable using Android Things.” Amadeo seems to think it has to do with the low price, as it undercuts the cheapest third-party Google smart display (Lenovo’s 8-inch model) by fifty bucks.

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