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What just happened? Google has become the latest tech company to lay off hundreds of employees. The job losses will affect those working in its voice assistant, hardware, and engineering teams as the company looks to cut costs and put more focus on artificial intelligence.
Several Google divisions are being impacted by the job reductions, including core engineering and Google Assistant, but the majority of losses will be within the hardware division. Most of the hardware cuts will affect a team working on augmented reality, news that comes just weeks ahead of Apple launching the Vision Pro, while companies such as Samsung and Sony are preparing to launch rival headsets.
Hardware teams responsible for Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit will see layoffs. Fitbit, which Google bought for $2.1 billion in 2021, is reportedly losing co-founders James Park and Eric Friedman along with other leaders.
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
Google has also announced it will be deprecating 17 "underutilized" features in Google Assistant. These include playing and controlling audiobooks on Google Play Books with your voice, using your voice to send an email, video or audio message, and starting a meditation session with Calm by using a voice command. All of which illustrates the declining interest in Google Assistant.
"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," a spokesperson for Google said in a statement. "Some teams are continuing to make these kinds of organizational changes, which include some role eliminations globally."
Those priorities likely include artificial intelligence. Many companies are putting more focus in the area, often at the expense of jobs elsewhere – Duolingo said AI was partly to blame after it laid off 10% of contract workers.
Google was one of many tech companies to announce mass layoffs early last year, the result of overhiring during the pandemic when firms increased their headcounts to cope with the increased demand for their services. Parent Alphabet announced that 12,000 jobs were going, leading to employee walkouts at some global offices.
Google isn't the only tech giant to announce job cuts this week. Amazon is eliminating hundreds of jobs at Prime Video just weeks before it introduces ads to the streaming service. Subsidiary Twitch is also laying off a third of its staff.