Essential Products Lays Off A Third Of Its Workforce, A Bad Sign For Future Products [Opinion]

Andy Rubin gives a public demonstration.
Brian Ach / Getty Images

The Essential phone never had a chance at commercial success, despite the fact that its inventor was Andy Rubin. Rubin’s rather extensive resume includes building Android — and Sidekick before that. It seemed like if anyone could break users free of the current smartphone duopoly, Andy Rubin was the one to bet on.

As Bloomberg reports, however, today’s tidings do not bode well for Rubin’s startup. Essential Products Inc. has cut about one third of their staff.

Essential is his latest venture. At the moment, Essential is a single handset, the first one on the market with what we think of as a notch. The phone came bundled with a lot of big ideas that spanned well beyond the handset itself. It seemed like Rubin had everything that he needed to make a real run of it. Today’s news is the latest sign that things are not working out as initially planned.

Bloomberg took the following statement from an Essential spokeswoman.

“This has been a difficult decision to make. We are very sorry for the impact on our colleagues who are leaving the company and are doing everything we can to help them with their future careers… We are confident that our sharpened product focus will help us deliver a truly game changing consumer product.”

This news comes quickly on the heels of another devastating blow, namely, the cancellation of a second version of the Essential phone. It simply has not sold well enough to warrant the production of a new model.

Rubin’s ambitions originally included an open and extensible foundation for smart homes, Ambient OS. While the phone was an obvious primary product, the smart home slash internet-of-things platform was the big idea that he was after.

stack of smartphone
  By 24Novembers / Shutterstock

The public has heard very little from Rubin since he presented his big-picture plan to kick off the launch of his company. His problem may ultimately come down to a tragic flaw shared by many tech startups before him. Rubin wanted to create an iPhone killer — and that rarely ends well.

In Rubin’s own words when talking to Wired, “There hasn’t been an Apple since Apple.” Rubin may have thought that it was time to upset the paradigm, and that he was the one to do it.

It could also be that Rubin focused on launching the wrong product. The consumer market arguably is not in need of another smartphone, now or even as of three years ago. What the market may require, and likely will demand moving forward, is a coherent platform for the internet of things. Had Rubin started with this concept, headlines today may not have looked so grim for the technological innovator.