If you’ve not heard already, Google has officially come out and said it will no longer make tablets. After the cold reception of both the Pixel C and Pixel Slate, it seems Google is taking its ball and going home. Have they just given up? Are they simply ceding victory to the iPad and not interested in the fight any longer? Maybe. But I also think there’s more to this decision.
First up, let’s talk facts. Business Insider posted an article after having a conversation with a Google spokesperson who told them:
Chrome OS has grown in popularity across a broad range of form factors, and we’ll continue to work with our ecosystem of partners on laptops and tablets. For Google’s first-party hardware efforts, we’ll be focusing on Chrome OS laptops and will continue to support Pixel Slate
After this story got out and every news source picked it up, Rick Osterloh – Google’s SVP of Devices and Services – took to Twitter to not only verify the article, but to clarify a bit.
Hey, it’s true…Google’s HARDWARE team will be solely focused on building laptops moving forward, but make no mistake, Android & Chrome OS teams are 100% committed for the long-run on working with our partners on tablets for all segments of the market (consumer, enterprise, edu)— Rick Osterloh (@rosterloh) June 20, 2019
He went on to further clarify that his tweet applied to Chrome OS devices and that his not-so-clear initial tweet didn’t mean to come off sounding like the hardware team at Google would only be focusing on laptops. All of it begs the question of why Google chose to go this route in telling the world about it’s decision to stop making tablets, but that’s for another article. For now, its enough to know that Google is serious about the fact that they are no longer in the tablet game and that their team will focus on making things like the Pixelbook.
As a matter of fact, in the Business Insider article, they specifically said they would focus on the “Pixelbook lineup” and that we could “expect new Google-made laptops to be announced as early as this year.” For those of us who are ardent Pixelbook fans and not so keen on the tablet-as-laptop setup, this isn’t terrible news.
That’s Why I’m Not Mad
You see, I’ve had a bit of a revelation about tablets in general since the release of the Pixel Slate. I wanted so badly to like it and, like many users, had this Utopian idea about a tablet that I could use as a laptop being the answer to my workflow issues. What are those issues, exactly? I’m not really sure, to be honest. I just know there are tons of people who obsess about making a tablet into a laptop replacement and I used to be one of them. I tried quite a few Microsoft Surface devices and I tried to work from an iPad on a few occasions. I clearly tried leveraging the Pixel Slate in this way too and when I didn’t enjoy the experience, I took a step back to actually consider what I was doing.
Why are we so caught up with making tablets more than they are? Why is it I see so many iPad Pros out and about and never, ever see one being used as a tablet? Why is there so much pressure on Apple to make iPad OS and add more and more laptop-type features? I have no idea, but I know I used to be insanely attracted to the idea of it until the Pixel Slate came around.
As I went through my review process, however, I began to realize something pretty profound: I don’t need a tablet in my life at all anymore. Sure, I keep an iPad Mini around for PUBG Mobile, but I could just as easily use my phone for that. I don’t use the iPad for anything else and don’t even really ever find the desire to. When I was using the Pixel Slate, I always had it attached to a keyboard and when I removed it, I couldn’t really pin down why I needed to detach it in the first place. As a couch surfer, flipping a convertible into presentation mode is actually a better lean-back experience since I don’t have to hold up the device. 12-inch tablets are simply too big to really be used as a one-handed tablet, so I can only really see fringe cases where a tablet of that size would even be a necessity.
Sure, there are certain users who would disagree and I know that going in. For some folks, a tablet makes a ton of sense. But in a land of 6-inch phones and thin, light, convertible laptops, I think the time of the tablet is on the decline. When we talk general users and the entire possible user base, there’s not a huge need for tablets any longer. If we take out the portion of the market that will – without question – go and buy an iPad one way or another and are left with just the undecided tablet buyers, I’d recon that leftover potential-buyer pool would be quite small.
Perhaps Google sees this, realizes all the fumbles and stumbles its made in the tablet space, and simply doesn’t see a ton of benefit in continuing to pursue a dwindling market when they have a great piece of hardware in the Pixelbook that has slowly gained widespread critical acclaim from people who at one time said it was terrible. Perhaps Google is taking the wins they already have and choosing to continue moving those efforts forward instead of going after a market segment they can’t crack.
Back in the day when laptops were thick, heavy, battery-hogs, I can see where the allure of a thin, simple slab of computing would be intense. With devices like the Pixelbook available, however, I just don’t know that there is so much we’re losing with Google deciding that tablets aren’t worth their time or effort any longer. I know that I’ve become comfortable with a large phone and a thin/light/portable convertible laptop as my preferred way to consume content and get stuff done.
Perhaps I’m not the only one.