The tech sector layoff onslaught rolls on to 2024, with Alphabet’s Google being the latest to announce a fresh cull of employees in cost-cutting spree. It follows job losses at Amazon and Duolingo earlier in the week.
An exact number of affected employees was not given, but we know that the majority of cuts were made to the Augmented Reality (AR) team. The hardware team responsible for Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit products, and the Virtual Assistant Unit also lost a few hundred employees each.
Among those leaving the company are Fitbit co-founders James Park, Eric Friedman, as well as other Fitbit leaders.
Google Kicks of 2024 with Redundancies
Google has laid off hundreds of employees, with those affected including staff in its engineering and hardware divisions, as well as those working on Google Assistant, the company's virtual assistant.
As reported by Reuters, a spokesperson for Google stated that the changes were needed for the company to become more efficient and ‘work better', with a focus on bigger priorities meaning that some roles had to be eliminated, globally.
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Last year Google announced it will be giving its virtual assistant an AI integrated makeover, with the implication that it could result in layoffs. It seems this week's news is this implication realized. The Bard experiment is currently underway and enables Google Assistant to be a more personalized helper and complete more complicated tasks on behalf of its user.
In another statement to The Verge, Courtenay Mencini of Google, assured that they will be helping affected employees to find new positions both within Google and elsewhere.
Whilst the layoffs seem to be coming in thick and fast, it is just a small fraction of the total workforce. Alphabet, Google’s parent company employed 182,381 employees as of September 30th, 2023.
Google kicked off 2023 with cuts in January, too, although last year, it was a huge 12,000 unlucky employees who found themselves on the chopping block.
Could Google Cuts Spell the End of Fitbit?
Evidence is mounting that Google’s plan when acquiring Fitbit in 2019 was to push it out of the market all along. Laying off the majority of the Fitbit team, including its founders and leaders, might just be the final nail in the coffin for the much-loved sport watch brand.
What’s more, the tech giant quietly withdrew Fitbit products from more than a dozen countries in 2023. And in more suspicious activity, Google left Fitbit users disappointed when popular features were axed resulting in multi-day service outages and also stopped Fitbit Premium service subscriptions from auto-renewing.
The Fitbit brand remains popular despite the fact that the general fitness tracker market slowed in recent years due to the rise of smartwatches. The Fitbit-Google integration looked like a way for Google to compete more aggressively with the Apple watch and this latest jobs cut indicates that the Pixel Watch will be the device they are backing.
The Google Pixel watch is marketed primarily as a fitness watch but it also has all the Google Apps you might expect on your phone – like Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Wallet.