Google lays off hundreds in voice assistant, hardware, engineering teams; Fitbit co-founders left in a major shakeup

Alphabet’s Google announced on Wednesday it is laying off hundreds of employees across various teams, including Google Assistant, hardware, and engineering. This move follows the commitment made by Google and Alphabet executives to cut costs, with Fitbit co-founders James Park and Eric Friedman also departing the company.

According to the report, Google will be reducing the workforce in its Voice Assistant unit and eliminating several hundred roles in the hardware team responsible for Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit. The augmented reality (AR) team is also heavily affected, with the majority of its members being let go. Additionally, the central engineering team of the search giant will see hundreds of roles impacted.

The layoffs hit hard across Google’s teams. In Google Assistant, hundreds faced job cuts, particularly from the augmented reality hardware unit, hinting at a possible retreat from ambitious AR endeavors.

The hardware division witnessed a reduction of a few hundred roles spanning Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit teams. This move indicates Google’s strategic shift, possibly honing in on core products. The central engineering team underwent a significant overhaul, impacting hundreds of roles. It signified a broader reorganization within Google’s technical workforce.

The news of the layoff comes just a year after Alphabet’s announcement in January 2023 about cutting 12,000 jobs, approximately 6% of its global workforce. As of September 2023, Alphabet had a total of 182,381 employees worldwide.

Despite Google’s acquisition of Fitbit for $2.1 billion in 2021, the company has continued to release new versions of its Pixel Watch, a product in competition with some of Fitbit’s devices and the Apple Watch.

A Google spokesperson told Reuters that in the latter half of 2023, many teams undertook changes to enhance efficiency, align resources with product priorities, and improve overall functionality. Some teams are still implementing these organizational changes, which include role eliminations globally.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson did not provide specific figures regarding the number of roles affected, making it unclear how many individuals are part of the Google Assistant software and other impacted teams.

This restructuring occurs as companies like Microsoft and Google are investing in the increasing adoption of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology, inspired by the success of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Google announced plans last year to integrate generative AI capabilities into its virtual assistant, enabling it to assist with tasks like trip planning and email management.