Google Home Hub, the first Google-made smart display device announced this week, actually runs on an operating system totally different from those used by third-party smart display devices, according to a report by Arstechnica.
Google Smart Display devices made by third-party manufacturers, such as Lenovo, LG and JBL, run on the Android Things operating system and is built on the Qualcomm SD624 Home Hub Platform, a chipset designed to run Android Things and the Google Assistant software.
Android Things cannot be customized by third-party manufacturers, and as such, these third-party devices just use images and updates distributed directly from Google. All Google Smart Display devices are therefore identical in terms of usage, whether they are made by LG or Lenovo.
When it comes to Google’s own Smart Display device, the company didn’t go for Android Things. The new Google Home Hub is actually built on Google’s Cast platform, the same operating system used by Google Chromecast.
“There’s no particular reason. We just felt we could bring the experience to bear with Cast, and the experiences are the same. We would have easily given the third-parties Cast if they wanted it, but I think most developers are comfortable using Android Things,” Diya Jolly, vice president of product management at Google, told Arstechnica.
The real reason why Google didn’t use the same platform of third-party manufacturers remains unknown. One of the possible reasons, according to Arstechnica, is budget.
Android Things requires more hardware than a normal IoT device. Even the low-cost boards come with at least 1GB of RAM. Furthermore, Google uses an Amlogic chip in the Google Home Hub, instead of the Qualcomm package. This could lower the cost too.
The Google Home Hub doesn’t have a built-in camera for video chat and it features a standard touch range 7-inch screen only. The hardware clues also support the low-cost theory.
As the Google Home Hub is priced at US$149, Lenovo’s Smart Display is available for US$199 and JBL’s device sells for US$250.
Despite the different operating system, third-party Smart Display devices will still get updates for the new dashboard feature to control smart home devices that support Google Assistant from one interface.