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Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a 2016 product event where Google introduced its Pixel line of smartphones. Photo: Eric Risberg / AP

With details on its new speakers and phones having already leaked, the big question heading into Wednesday's event isn't what Google will unveil, but rather how it plans to make this year's gear more successful than past efforts.

What we've heard: According to leaks to various news sources, the company is expected to follow last year's pattern with two Pixel phones, a standard and XL version, with the former made by HTC and the latter by LG. We also know Google is expanding the Google Home line to include a cheaper "mini" version, via confirmation by Walmart which had a pre-order listing pop up on its site. And we might see more, including a Pixel-branded Chromebook.

The bottom line: Google really needs to go big or go home. It's a defining moment for Google's latest hardware effort, which is being spearheaded by former Motorola chief Rick Osterloh.

Facing the competition: The company is spending enough these days on its hardware efforts that it needs to do more than just show partners how they might do things better. And, Google has stiff competition. On the phone front, Google competes with Samsung and Apple, while Google Home and its offspring will have to battle Amazon's growing family of Echo products.

Background: For a long time, Google's phone hardware efforts have been primarily designed to spur other Android phone makers in one direction or another, instead of aiming to take a big share of the market. The first Pixel may have had broader ambitions, but was still somewhat limited by having Verizon as its exclusive carrier partner.

Doubling down, not backing down: Last month the company announced plans to acquire 2,000 engineers from HTC as part of a deal to buy a chunk of the Taiwanese company's phone operation. However, Google hasn't really clarified what it hopes to get out of that deal, or how it can shift from being a bit player in the phone business.

Mixed track record: Google has had a rocky tenure as a consumer hardware maker. Most notably, the company spent $12 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility, only to sell off the business a couple years later for a fraction of the price. Internal efforts have also been mixed. Its Chromecast proved a surprise hit, while it was forced to shelve the Q, an early smart speaker effort.

Go deeper

Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

The new grifters: outrage profiteers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Republicans lost the Senate and narrowly missed retaking the House, millions of dollars in grassroots donations were diverted to a handful of 2020 congressional campaigns challenging high-profile Democrats that, realistically, were never going to succeed.

Why it matters: Call it the outrage-industrial complex. Slick fundraising consultants market candidates contesting some of their party’s most reviled opponents. Well-meaning donors pour money into dead-end campaigns instead of competitive contests. The only winner is the consultants.