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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

Amazon ordered to redo union vote in Alabama

Photo: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

A U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) official on Monday called for a re-vote in a union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

Why it matters: The move could set the stage for another organizing drive at the e-commerce giant, which has, so far, fought off unionizing efforts in the U.S.

Pentagon to probe 2019 Syria strike after reports of dozens of civilian casualties

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Nov. 20. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/AFP via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered a new investigation into a 2019 U.S. airstrike that killed around 80 people, including dozens of women and children in Syria, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The move comes after the Times reported this month that the Pentagon attempted to keep the strike and casualties under wraps, failing to investigate the decision behind it even after questions were raised internally.

Federal court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting with his COVID-19 response team. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

A federal court in Missouri has blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally funded facilities in 10 states.

Why it matters: Monday's decision is the first victory for opponents of the rule, which requires health care workers to get vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. The case is one of four lawsuits challenging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) rule and argues that the mandate will exacerbate staffing shortages.