Poor old Google can’t decide what it wants to do in the hardware market. Just three years ago, Google’s Rick Osterloh was confirming that the company’s hardware team was abandoning tablets in favour of laptops. Now, it seems, Google is abandoning laptops in favour of tablets.
That’s according to The Verge’s source — the ever-mysterious “person familiar with the matter” — who claims that Google is no longer making the third version of its high-end Pixelbook Chromebook. The project was apparently quite far along and due next year, but has now been abandoned for cost-saving reasons, with staff reallocated to other projects.
The Pixelbook — Google’s way of showing the world that the normally cheap-and-cheerful Chromebook could benefit from high-end internals — was critically acclaimed. But it probably didn’t sell all that well for the simple reason that if you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on a laptop, you may as well get one that runs Windows or macOS. The benefit of Chrome OS is chiefly that it doesn’t need beefy specifications to do its job, making it especially appealing to schools trying to make every cent count.
Aside from the R&D savings, Google may also see this as ‘job done’. In 2012, Chrome OS had a US market share of just 0.2%, but that rose to 9.6% the following year, the same time that the Chromebook Pixel — the grandfather of the most recent Pixelbook Go — arrived on the scene in 2013.
Granted, that probably wasn’t directly down to the ridiculously expensive ~NZ$2,167 Chromebook Pixel, but Google had at least given other manufacturers something to aspire to, just as how Nexus and Pixel phones show how Android can be its best.
But another way of looking at it is that this is just another bit of hardware that Google has prematurely abandoned — something to bitterly resent its early demise in Silicon Heaven, alongside Google Glass, the Pixel Slate and Project Ara.
Now we’re back to tablets being the focus with the upcoming Pixel Tablet. But how long before Google decides that, actually it was right in the first place, and laptops are the future after all?