Even as it pushes Pixel, Google isn't abandoning the Android system that other manufacturers can use for free. That means Samsung, LG and others can keep making their own phones with Google software.

In that sense, Google's approach is more like Microsoft's than Apple's. Microsoft also has been making hardware through its line of Surface computers running Windows. That puts Microsoft — and now Google — in the awkward position of promoting both its own devices and those of rivals that run the company's software.