In a significant move, Google has announced a wave of layoffs affecting multiple divisions within the company, including its voice-activated Google Assistant and hardware teams. The decision comes as the founders of Fitbit, which Google acquired in 2021, have left the company. With a total of 182,000 employees as of September 30, 2023, Google confirmed the job cuts while emphasizing that they are part of broader organizational changes.
The affected divisions include the voice-activated Google Assistant, which is part of the knowledge and information product team restructuring, and the Devices and Services PA (DSPA) team responsible for managing Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit hardware.
A Google spokesperson 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 swiftly responded to the layoffs, describing them as “needless” and expressing concern about the company letting go of employees while posting substantial profits.
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!
— Alphabet Workers Union (AWU-CWA) (@AlphabetWorkers) January 11, 2024
In addition to the layoffs in its hardware and voice assistance teams, Google has also disbanded most of its Augmented Reality (AR) hardware team and plans to collaborate with other Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). This move will consolidate Google’s hardware engineering into a single core team, as reported by 9to5Google.
These developments come as Fitbit founder James Park played a pivotal role in introducing the new Pixel Watch line of smartwatches to Google’s hardware lineup. Google’s acquisition of Fitbit for $2.1 billion in 2019 was finalized in 2021, and since then, the company has been integrating Fitbit products into its own offerings, prompting Fitbit users to migrate to Google accounts.
Separately, Google has also made cuts within the Google Assistant team. Last year, the company introduced AI-powered features in Google Assistant through Bard, aiming to expand Assistant’s capabilities “beyond voice.” During the Pixel event in October, Google showcased how Assistant could now sift through apps like Gmail and Drive to respond to queries related to specific emails and files.
This isn’t the first time Google has implemented company-wide layoffs. In the past year, the tech giant laid off various teams, including the Waze mapping service in June, the recruiting team in September, and the news division in October. This latest round of layoffs comes a year after Google let go of approximately 12,000 roles, or 6% of its workforce, in January 2023.
These recent changes indicate Google’s ongoing efforts to streamline its operations and adapt to evolving market dynamics in the tech industry.