Google is accelerating hardware production in China, rapidly building a team of engineers to oversee the contractors manufacturing Pixel smartphones, Google Home speakers and other products. The moves are raising the stakes for Google’s strained relationship with the government in Beijing, which welcomes the manufacturing expansion but continues to block Google search and other apps.
In Shanghai, Google has increased the number of engineers in its new local hardware team to 101 from 20 employees a year ago. In addition to the Pixel and Google Home, the hardware team is working on Google wearable devices, virtual reality headsets and Google Pixelbook laptops. The team currently has five managers, who report directly to Google’s Mountain View office. The team is housed inside the Shanghai World Financial Center, at 101 floors one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, and is growing so fast it had to expand to another floor.