Google this week announced that it was killing its IoT platform, Android Things, less than two years after limiting its use to smart speakers and displays.
“We are turning down the Android Things Console for non-commercial use,” the Android Developer blog reveals. “Developers can continue to use the Android Things console to build images and serve OTA updates for their existing projects until January 5, 2022. At this point, the console will be turned down completely and all project data will be permanently deleted—including build configurations and factory images.”
Google released the first preview of Android Things in December 2016, positioning it as a mainstream IoT solution for developers who are familiar with Android. And it partnered with hardware makers to support the platform on Intel Edison, NXP Pico, and Raspberry Pi 3 computing boards. Then the 1.0 release arrived in May 2018, offering broader hardware support that included so-called “system on a module” (SoM) chipsets similar to Microsoft’s Azure Sphere.
But less than a year later, it was obvious that Android Things was a failure. Google revealed that it would limit the use of Android Things to smart speakers and smart displays only and it killed support for SoMs based on NXP, Qualcomm, and MediaTek designs.
It’s possible that Android Things’ greatest strength—being based on Android—was at least partially responsible for its downfall: Google only supported the system for three years, which is problematic enough for smartphones but a real Achilles’ Heel on embedded IoT solutions that customers would naturally expect to use for much longer than that.
Google is working to improve the Android support lifecycle for smartphones, but with this week’s announcement, it’s clear that it won’t or can’t do so for Android Things, even given its limited use cases. And so this era is coming to a close.
Google offers a few other solutions for the IoT space, but as Microsoft found previously with Windows, simply building new platforms based on your most successful platform doesn’t always guarantee success. And none of Google’s other IoT offerings are client hardware platforms, but instead ways to integrate with its cloud, Assistant, and Nest platforms. (A company called Coral does offer an AI solution for edge computing that’s based on a Google chipset, however.)