Google employees say Happy New Year to a fresh round of layoffs

  • Google has revealed that it has cut employees from several of its hardware and engineering teams, affecting hundreds in each.
  • Employees in the Pixel, Nest, Fitbit, Voice Assistant and central engineering teams have been affected. The Google AR team in particular has been gutted with majority of workers let go.
  • A company spokesperson said that the cuts were a means to increase efficiency.

Not two weeks into the new year and the tech industry seems set to continue its trend of layoffs for a third consecutive year. The latest sees Alphabet-owned tech giant Google admit to cutting hundreds of employees across several teams on Wednesday.

Teams to see the fresh axe include the Voice Assistant unit, with hundreds more employees let go from the Pixel, Nest and Fitbit teams, as well as the Google central engineering team. Meanwhile, the majority of the employees of the Google alternate reality team have been fired, according to a report from Reuters.

Google has not indicated the total number of roles being impacted by these layoffs, but it may be several hundreds of people, maybe nearing a thousand roles.

In January 2023 Alphabet announced that it was cutting 12 000 employees from its global workforce, or around six percent of its workers. At that time CEO Sundar Pichai said that the company’s investments in AI technology might cushion the impact from slashing the company’s workforce.

“I am confident about the huge opportunity in front of us thanks to the strength of our mission, the value of our products and services, and our early investments in AI. To fully capture it, we’ll need to make tough choices,” Pichai said.

According to a Google spokesperson, the tech behemoth – with a total of 182 381 worldwide employees and a humble market value of over $1 trillion – is enacting these recent cuts in the name of increased efficiency.

“Throughout 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,” a company statement reads.

Cuts to the AR team are not unusual, as other major tech firms have also seen fit to reduce their AR/VR departments, including Microsoft, as the bubble around the once-hyped metaverse is now a soapy puddle.

Layoffs affecting the Google Pixel and Fitbit teams are a bit rarer, as the company launched its latest Pixel smartphone – the Pixel 8 – only in October last year. Meanwhile, Google purchased Fitbit for a respectable $2.1 billion in 2021 and yet has continued to produce its Pixel watch device which competes with Fitbits and Apple Watches.

The gutting of a few hardware and engineering departments at Google could be further indication in the company’s full tilt into generative AI products.

At the Google I/O developer conference last year, it was evident that the focus of the company going forward would be generative AI technology, with only the then-announcement of the Google Pixel Fold breaking the AI diatribe.

[Image – Photo by Alex Dudar on Unsplash]


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