We’ve talked about ‘Atlas’ for what feels almost like an eternity around here. As a device that began showing up in development alongside the Pixel Slate (‘Nocturne’ back then), we are beyond long-in-the-tooth at this point as we continue waiting and speculating about exactly what ‘Atlas’ is and when we’ll finally see it actually come to market.
You can click here and be taken to a slew of articles that we’ve written about ‘Atlas’, but what you really need to know is we still firmly believe this is the Pixelbook 2 and there are tons of good reasons for that. Why it was pushed back, delayed, or entirely rethought is beyond our knowledge, but it needs to be said that we’re still freely assuming it will be a #madebyGoogle Chromebook in the end.
With recent comments around the end of tablets being made by Google themselves, we also got a few hints at what could be coming. First, in the official statement from Google, the spokesperson let on that we’d see the continuation of the Pixelbook line and second, confirmed that a new #madebyGoogle Chromebook could appear in 2019. Add this to comments from Google’s Cloud Next event that hinted at a new #madebyGoogle device in the works and you get what could be a new Pixelbook later this year when Google is assumed to have its annual hardware event.
A New Direction
We published a video when the Pixel 3a launched simply titled The Pixel 3a Effect and, in that video/article, argued for the low-price mindset of the new Pixel phones to be applied to Chromebooks as well. In that piece, the idea is simple: what if Google took the idea of delivering a quality, #madebyGoogle experience at nearly half the going cost? What if the next Pixelbook wasn’t astonishingly expensive, but surprisingly affordable? I wonder what sort of reach Google’s marketing machine could have armed with a reasonably-priced, well-built, Google Pixelbook.
Well, we found some commits that give us a shred of hope that this could be happening with ‘Atlas’ and, by extension, with Google’s next possible Pixelbook. Here’s an example of one of them:
Revert “mb/google/poppy/variants/atlas: enable NVMe”
This reverts commit 41979d862a972375d6800afdf2b8b52d408fd220.
Reason for revert: NVMe is no longer supported.
In these numerous commits, we’re seeing the complete removal of NVMe storage across the board for ‘Atlas.’ While this is a tiny bummer, it is indicative of a less high-end focus. NVMe is high-priced storage that is faster and more stable than the commonplace eMMC that is generally used in Chromebooks. The original Pixelbook utilized this storage in only the top-tier model and though the Pixel Slate was set up to make use of NVMe, it never ended up shipping with it.
Make no mistake: NVMe has been a part of ‘Atlas’ development from the get-go and we’ve fully expected at least an optional version of ‘Atlas’ with it enabled. With Google effectively removing the entire possibility for of this configuration for ‘Atlas’, could it be that Google is in fact changing direction with the next Pixelbook and instead of aiming for the high-end, they are now aiming directly at the middle?
It would make sense from a couple perspectives for them to do this. First, as we mentioned above, a Google-made Chromebook firmly in the $500 range could be the Pixelbook for the masses. Second, if the ‘Atlas’ tests we’re seeing on Geekbench are worth any thought, those are being tested with the same processors we see in the Pixel Slate currently and would be much cheaper to produce than pushing the latest, greatest silicon from Intel.
All this is, of course, speculation at this point. We don’t 100% know that ‘Atlas’ is the Pixelbook 2 and we can’t be sure that it will arrive at a much more tolerable price point. But with what we know about it so far and what we can deduce from the time frame we’re looking at, I don’t think it is too far of a stretch to imagine Google finally making an in-house Chromebook that is ready to compete on a much larger stage.