In a significant move impacting over 1,000 employees, Google has announced layoffs across various divisions, including engineering, services, and key hardware teams, such as Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit. The restructuring also affects the knowledge and information product team responsible for the voice-activated Google Assistant. This development coincides with the departure of Fitbit co-founders James Park and Eric Friedman.
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."
However, the Alphabet Worker Union criticized the layoffs on social media, describing them as "needless" and asserting that the company cannot "continue to fire our coworkers" while achieving significant profits.
As part of the restructuring, Google has streamlined its hardware engineering teams, consolidating Pixel, Fitbit, and Nest into a single core hardware engineering team. This shift also includes letting go of most of its Augmented Reality (AR) hardware team, signaling a change in the company's approach to AR products.
Fitbit co-founders, James Park and Eric Friedman, are among those departing as part of the restructuring. James Park played a pivotal role in introducing the new Pixel Watch line of smartwatches to Google’s hardware lineup. Google acquired Fitbit for $2.1 billion in 2019, with the deal finalized in 2021. Since then, the integration of Fitbit products into Google's ecosystem has been ongoing.
Additionally, the restructuring involves layoffs in the Google Assistant team, as the company works to refine its approach to AI-powered features within Assistant. Google had started incorporating AI capabilities into Assistant through Bard last year, expanding its functionality beyond voice commands.
This move follows Google's previous layoffs in different teams throughout the past year, including the Waze mapping service, recruiting team, and news division. The latest layoffs come a year after Google reduced approximately 12,000 roles, representing 6% of its workforce, in January 2023. The company is navigating a period of organizational shifts and adjustments, raising questions about its long-term strategy and the impact on its workforce.