I will never forget the build up to the second #madebyGoogle event in 2017. The anticipation. The excitement. Between the new Pixel 2 phones, a smaller Google Home speaker, the second iteration of Daydream view, and – of course – the Pixelbook, we were insanely excited by all that Google was debuting in the hardware space. I remember being so ready to see the world welcome a premium, Google-made Chromebook when Chrome OS as a platform was still struggling to find its identity. I remember touching the Pixelbook for the first time and marveling at its quality, fit and finish and I vividly remember the wait to get our review unit in the office.
When it did finally arrive on the scene, the reviews weren’t great. It was pricey for a Chromebook and though it offered a nice bit of power and cutting-edge design, most people didn’t know what to do with Google’s $1000+ Chromebook. They weren’t ready, Chrome OS wasn’t ready, and by extension, the Pixelbook wasn’t ready.
By the time the next year rolled around and we were getting prepped for Google’s launch of the Pixel Slate, the story had shifted a bit for the Pixelbook. It took months, but reviewers and users collectively started to understand the allure of the Pixelbook. As Chrome OS continued to get better, it became easier and easier to appreciate the unique look, pristine design, and overall aesthetic of the Pixelbook. By the time the ill-fated Pixel Slate released, the original Pixelbook was just starting to really stretch its legs and sell quite well for a premium Chromebook at the time. And, as fate would have it, the Pixel Slate’s messy launch probably pushed more users to the Pixelbook instead.
Two years after that launch, we all thought we might be in for a Pixelbook 2, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, Google launched the Pixelbook Go as a more-affordable, less enigmatic clamshell-only Chromebook. We praised the Go for its attention to detail, quality build, and more-approachable pricing, but still felt there was room for a proper successor to the Pixelbook. The Pixelbook Go feels more like an extension of the product line, not an iteration on a great product.
All this time, however, more and more people were finding themselves interacting in some way, shape or form with a Pixelbook and finding that Google had really crafted something special in that now-2-year-old device. Sometimes a product comes together in just the right way that it takes on a quality that wasn’t planned on or designed: it just is. And that is what the Pixelbook has become. A device that, upon a bit of time passing, has shown itself to be far better than it was at launch. Is it perfect? Of course not. The bezels are still huge, the processor is aging a bit, and I think the white silicone palm rests could go away. But the device as a whole is still unmatched in its looks, feel and overall design. There’s just nothing quite like it.
It is time for Pixelbook 2
If you were to ask me what Chromebook I’d most like to see iterated on with a proper sequel, the answer would be 100% the Pixelbook and I think many users would agree. With the failings of the Pixel Slate and the great-but-pedestrian Pixelbook Go, I think Google would do well to basically keep the general design of the Pixelbook, change a few things, and ship it as a new version of a now-beloved device. I’m not the only one who feels this way, either.
I honestly can’t express how on-point I feel this tweet to be. The Pixelbook would need very little at this juncture to have an amazing sequel. It doesn’t need an all-new design or a new direction or a new aesthetic. It is quite perfect already, so little would need to change. Sure, give it the excellent 13.5-inch 3:2 screen from the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 that would effectively kill off those bezels, make the palm rests out of something that won’t stain, and drop a fingerprint scanner on the keyboard or on the chassis somewhere, and (obviously) update the internals. That’s it. Nothing more needed. Nothing.
I’m worried Google isn’t working on a new Pixelbook
We spend a lot of time in the Chromium Repositories and we follow patterns and trends that point us to certain conclusions. While Google’s own Chromebooks haven’t been exactly easy to pinpoint, leaks have happened and certain clues in the open source code have led to them being spotted well before they were ever announced. We knew months in advance about the Pixelbook, Pixel Slate, and Pixelbook Go, yet here we sit mid-July in 2020 without a single shred of credible evidence that Google has anything in the works.
I’m not saying they aren’t going to launch a Chromebook this year, but as the weeks wear on without any sign of any new Chrome OS devices from them, my confidence that it will happens slowly fades. In some ways, I think Google made the Pixelbook, Pixel Slate and Pixelbook Go devices as lighthouse Chromebooks that were meant to show hardware manufacturers the way. I’d argue that they have done so and, in that way, accomplished their mission. And, in some ways, I’m sure Google doesn’t really want to compete with its hardware partners and would rather work with them in developing both affordable and amazing Chromebooks. And that’s fine if that’s the direction this all goes.
But I’ll be sad about it if Google quietly exits the Chromebook manufacturing arena. Many people don’t realize it, but Google is heavily involved in the development of 3rd party Chromebooks. Heavily invested. They don’t just build Chrome OS and walk away, hoping laptop makers figure it out. Instead, they play a key roll in every Chromebook being made. Devices like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet and Samsung Galaxy Chromebook don’t happen without this sort of deeper interaction between the Chrome OS team and hardware makers. It’s awesome to see and I think it is great for the Chromebook ecosystem as a whole.
To me, though, that still doesn’t mean Google should just walk away from a product they took so much care to deliver. The Pixelbook is unique and pretty amazing. I know Google isn’t the type of company that loves keeping things around and slowly iterating on them, but they’ve at least tried to do so with Pixel phones and their home hardware. Would it be so hard to just iterate on a working formula in the Pixelbook? I don’t think so, but I simply don’t see it in the cards at this point. I’ll keep digging and I’ll keep hoping I’m wrong on this, but I don’t think I am. And if you’ve been holding out hope for a Pixelbook 2, I’d take a long, hard look around at the lack of proof for such a device and start making peace with it now. There are great options out there, but there’s only one Pixelbook. And, unfortunately, it might end up staying that way.