Nearly six months after Google’s most recent hardware event in NY, we’re all still sitting here scratching our heads and asking “where is the Pixelbook 2?” By now, I’m sure many have abandoned hope that a refresh of Google’s flagship Chromebook is even going to happen. To you I would say, there is still hope.
At this point, there is little doubt in my mind that the device known as ‘Atlas’ is a Google Chromebook and the successor to the Pixelbook. Officially, Atlas doesn’t exist but I can assure you that the Chromebook is alive and well. Not only is it continuing to receive attention from Chromium developers, but it is also being used as a test-bed for a number of upcoming features in Chrome OS.
I was the first to admit that I was a tad shocked when Google did not unveil a second generation Pixelbook this past October but as time passes, I can understand why they didn’t.
The Pixel Slate was somewhat at the center of Google’s hardware event in New York and a new Pixelbook might have taken some of the wind out of the Slate’s sails. While we all know Google’s 2-in-1 still has a ways to go before it’s perfect, Google wanted all eyes on the tablet-first Chromebook.
In hindsight, Google may be regretting the decision to spotlight the Pixel Slate but one things for sure, they now know what it’s going to take to make the Chrome OS tablet experience exceptional and the Slate proves that awesome hardware alone isn’t the answer.
Historically, since the launch of the Chromebook Pixel in 2013, Google has held to a 2+ year life cycle for new Chrome devices with the exception of the Slate. Due to it’s unique form-factor, I exclude it from the timeline as it is somewhat a different creature from the Pixelbook.
Using that reasoning, it would make sense that a second generation Pixelbook could arrive alongside the Pixel 4 during Google’s annual hardware event in October but there is one key reason I think it will be much sooner than that.
If the “leaked” images of the Pixelbook 2 are even remotely accurate, we shouldn’t expect much change in the area of aesthetics in Google’s next Pixelbook. As a matter of fact, the reduced bezels are the only thing that looks different in the side-by-side images we reported last year.
Of course, as many have pointed out, the image above could simply be a bad Photoshop job from Google’s marketing department but it seems a bit odd considering not once prior has a slimmer-bezel Pixelbook image popped up anywhere.
That leads me to the internals of ‘Atlas’.
From what we’ve seen in the repositories, the Chromebook Atlas is in its last phases of development which points to a release in coming months. On the inside, Atlas is powered by the exact same Y-series processors found in the Pixel Slate.
While the 8th Gen Amber Lake chipsets are more than capable, by the time October 2019 rolls around we will likely have our hands on Whiskey Lake devices that carry integrated Gigabit Wifi and other enhancements.
It is possible that, by the end of the year, we could even see 9th Gen Comet Lake Chromebooks or even the fabled 10nm Intel Chips(not holding my breath). That means the current Y-series processors will already be showing their age and it will be a hard sell for Google given the expanding market of flagship devices.
For these reasons, I could definitely see Google quietly launching a minor refresh to the Pixelbook as early as Q2 without any fanfare. With the continued popularity of the first iteration of the Pixelbook among Chrome OS users, a second-gen device that expounds on its predecessor and tightens up the minute flaws in the original would likely be a sure-fire win for Google.
What’s all this have to do with April’s Cloud Next event?
Bear with me on this one because I’m honestly just connecting a few dots and making some fairly heavy speculation in the process.
In days gone by, Google was content to announce the Chromebook Pixel at the annual developer’s event we know as I/O. It made sense at the time because the Pixel’s real purpose was to set a bar for Chromebook makers while offering a premium device that pushed the borders of what Chrome OS could do.
It was never meant to be a big seller but more of a gold standard. To this day, the iconic Chromebook Pixel is a shining example of putting the best of what’s around in a Chrome device but its practicality was arguable due to its hefty price tag. Still, I have one sitting by my desk and occasionally, it even gets some desk time and performs admirably despite the fact that it has technically reached its end of life.
The Pixelbook, on the other hand, took center stage at Google’s hardware event in 2017 and is still one of the best overall devices on the market as it approaches its second year in existence. That’s a big feat when you consider the fact that there are 8th Gen Kaby Lake Chromebooks available that will smoke the Pixelbook in the performance department but lack that quintessence that surrounds Google’s flagship.
Since Google I/O is mainly geared towards developers, it is unlikely they will debut a new piece of hardware at the event if it is a Chromebook designed to be the herald of their newly found product line. Google may be a company built around data but if you think they aren’t trying to sell hardware, you’re fooling yourself. More hardware equals more data and more data means more revenue.
That brings us back to Google’s Cloud Next event that will be getting under way the second week of April. While still not a conference that focuses directly on the consumer market, Cloud Next targets a very important segment that most companies are constantly vying to conquer.
The annual event includes more than 450 sessions spanning 6 days and include news and updates around anything and everything surrounding Google’s Cloud infrastructure, mobility management, development and yes, even Chrome devices in the workplace.
Launching new devices isn’t normally on the agenda at Cloud Next but we have some insider info that we could get a sneak-peak at some enterprise-focused Chromebooks at the event and this comes alongside rumors that the Pixel 3 Lite could show up around the event. It would make sense for Google to tease the Pixelbook 2 at Cloud Next to woo business looking to requisition the latest Chrome hardware to work in conjunction with the Google Cloud Platform.
With the addition of Linux apps via Crostini, Chromebooks have added a very powerful layer of abilities that make them very powerful devices in the hands of developers and system managers. With Linux support gaining new features every day on Chrome OS and the rumors that enterprises may be able to run their own, specific Linux versions, ‘Atlas’ would be a near-perfect device for countless businesses.
Long story short, Google Cloud Next 2019 makes a lot of sense for ‘Atlas’ finally make a public appearance. Granted, there’s always the possibility that this device many never leave the grasps of developers and Google could move on to a completely new device for the Pixelbook 2 but I’m not counting ‘Atlas’ out, yet.
Stay tuned and don’t forget to subscribe while you’re here. We’ll be bringing you updates from the Cloud Next 2109 event as they happen as we hope to hear some exciting things our of Mountain View. You can find the full schedule here.Shop Chromebooks On Amazon