When Google parent company Alphabet unceremoniously announced it would cut 12,000 jobs this week, it was framed as a 6% reduction that was probably concentrated on administrative positions and a surge of hires made during the COVID pandemic. But follow-up reporting about where cuts have actually taken place inside the company that has prided itself on letting employees spend 20% of their office hours working on personal projects indicates that the company is reducing its exposure to risky ambitious moonshot projects. It may also be cutting back on a future software bet as it continues supporting its burgeoning hardware division.
When it comes to Google and operating systems, you might consider ChromeOS and especially Android to be its mastheads. But the company has also been developing another OS called Fuchsia — its convoluted development path over the past several years has led it to power Nest speakers and smart displays as of late, distributed through mid-life software updates. Fuchsia's creation was also said to get Google away from its everlasting legal entrapments with Oracle by not featuring Java code.
But it looks like the company will further forestall a full embrace of Fuchsia — if it was ever in the cards. Both The New York Times and 9to5Google are reporting that at least 16% of the 400-person team working on Fuchsia were terminated this week and that more pink slips could come in the future. The proportionally outsized impact on the group comes as a surprise, especially since Fuchsia OS is expected to feature for the first time out of the box on an upcoming Google smart home product. There’s no word on whether the layoffs will affect this product’s arrival.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports project lab Area 120 has essentially been gutted, just months after Google had already cut funding for the group. We recently reported on a project out of Alphabet's X incubator, Mineral, which had become a full-fledged Alphabet company while only three projects remain at the division with all others shut down.
Other tech giants have been slashing payroll in the past few weeks with Amazon's CEO saying in a company memo earlier this month that it will be terminating 18,000 workers in the weeks to come — the e-commerce platform had already cut 10,000 staff in November. This was followed by Microsoft announcing it would let go of 10,000 of its workers. Apple has largely avoided announcing large-scale workforce reductions, though AppleInsider is hearing about non-Apple Store retail associates getting their notices.
UPDATE: 2023/01/28 15:13 EST BY JULES WANG
An earlier version of this story mistakenly attributed Mineral as an Area 120 project. We regret the error.