Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., is reducing its workforce by laying off hundreds of employees from its hardware, voice assistant, and engineering teams as part of its ongoing cost-cutting efforts. According to the company, the cuts are impacting employees in the company’s voice-activated Google Assistant software, its augmented reality hardware team, and workers in the central engineering organization. The changes follow a pledge by executives at Google’s parent, Alphabet, to reduce costs and focus on the tech giant’s biggest priorities.
The move is the latest in a series of smaller reductions at Google this year. It follows a large round of layoffs in January when the company laid off 12,000 people or about 6% of its workforce.
Most of the job cuts affect staff on the voice assistant team, including some engineers who work on building language models for the Google Assistant. The augmented reality hardware team is also being cut back, which includes the team that worked on the original Google Glass. The company needs help to profit from the hardware it makes for its smart speaker, Google Home, and Pixel phone devices.
In a memo sent to workers Wednesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company will continue to invest in its core products. Still, it will decide how to spend its resources “with greater discipline.” He also stressed that the decision to lay off staff was not made lightly but after careful consideration.
Pichai’s note also highlighted that Google is shifting its strategy to emphasize machine learning and artificial intelligence while continuing to invest in other areas of its business, such as mobile, search, cloud computing, and advertising. The change is part of a broader effort to shift the company’s focus towards artificial intelligence as it looks to develop new ways to improve its core offerings and compete more effectively with competitors like Amazon.
Some of the affected employees were notified of their job status Wednesday, and a company spokesperson said Google supports any impacted workers as they seek other roles inside or outside the company. The spokesperson said the company is eliminating hundreds of positions globally.
Employees on the augmented reality hardware team were surprised by the news of the layoffs, and some said they had been hoping the Google Home Mini, which was recently updated with improved software and features, would boost the division’s sales. They say it’s now facing competition from other devices, such as the Apple Watch and new versions of the iPhone.