Talk about a rollercoaster ride. Just a couple of months ago, Robby stumbled upon – hiding in plain sight – evidence that Google absolutely had plans to make a new Pixelbook. After spending the last two years tirelessly scouring the Chromium repository for signs of a new Made by Google Chromebook, (with little reward) the realization that Rick Osterloh himself flat out confirmed a new device breathed new life into our dreams of a new Pixelbook.
Despite the veiled nature of Mr. Osterloh’s statement, that spark was all it took to reignite the flame of hope that Google was working on the first-ever Tensor-powered Pixelbook. We have discussed this at length on numerous podcasts and given Apple’s monumental success in shifting to ARM-powered macOS devices, imagining a next-gen Pixelbook powered by Tensor really wasn’t a bridge too far. In fact, the idea of a new Google Chromebook powered by the company’s in-house SoC is a rumor that has been making rounds in the rumor mill for over a year.
While some of those “leaks” appear completely unfounded, Rick Osterloh’s aforementioned statement leads me to believe that they weren’t entirely based in fantasy. After all, most rumors are born from a fragment of the truth. Whatever Google had up its sleeve, we were excited because frankly, there’s just something about the Pixlebooks. It’s nearly impossible to put into words but Google’s Chromebooks, even the OG Pixels, were simply “built different.” The newer Pixelbook-branded devices weren’t the most powerful Chromebooks on the market. Nor did they necessarily house any features that you couldn’t find in models from other OEMs. Yet, there is an almost intangible feeling you get when you pick up a Made by Google Chromebook.
Pixelbook vs. PixelBook Go
A tablet in the gap
Google SVP Rick Osterloh didn’t spill the beans on when we would see a new Pixelbook but he did take the stage at Google I/O to announces some other exciting hardware to soon come out of Mountain View. Along with the Pixel Watch that Rick was sporting on stage, the senior vice president also threw out a curveball that we would see a Tensor-powered Pixel Android tablet in 2023. Okay… Weird turn of events but I’m tracking, Rick. Don’t get me wrong. The thought of seeing a true successor to the Pixel C is exciting. The Android tablet space is absolutely one dimensional with Samsung being the only OEM out there making anything close to the cutting edge.
Perhaps Google’s temporary shift of focus to the Android tablet market would lend them time to iterate and perfect the fledgling Tensor SoC in preparation for the monumental launch of the world’s first Tensor-powered Pixelbook. In the meantime, we can all enjoy driving a premium, powerful, Google-y Android tablet that isn’t wearing a Samsung badge. I’m in. One hundred percent. Take my money.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. The teased Pixel tablet that briefly appeared on the screen behind Rick looked more like an e-reader or a kids Fire Tablet. That’s not to say it didn’t look like a Google device. As a matter of fact, my immediate thought was that the new Pixel tablet looked a whole lot like a Next Hub smart display with no base. As it turns out, that was no coincidence. You see, earlier this year, it was discovered that Google was working on a detachable Nest Hub-style device. Back then, I theorized that the Pixel tablet and this unannounced smart display could very well be one in the same. All signs point to this being the case and we will eventually have a Pixel tablet that pulls double duty as a mounted smart display.
So, not exactly what I was hoping for but I get it. Google has leaned heavily into the smart home market and the combination of an Android tablet with the versatility of a Nest smart display makes perfect sense. You can use it to game, read the news, watch some Netflix and when you’re ready to go hands-free, just pop it on the base and you have a smart display/speaker that’s perfect for reading recipes or taking a video call. Cool. I can dig it. Now, let’s move on and talk about that future Pixelbook. Shall we?
Say it ain’t so…
Up to this point, this story is playing out like a dream come true. Even though it has been three years since the last Pixelbook was announced, we’re totally willing to wait a little longer to see a new Google Chromebook powered by in-house silicon that continues the legacy that is Pixelbook. Unfortunately, our story has now taken a twist that’s worthy of an M. Night Shyamalan movie and I am saddened to report that a new Pixelbook is no longer part of Google’s future hardware roadmap. I know. I didn’t want to tell you but you deserve to hear it from a friend. We’ll get through this together. I promise.
The news arrived earlier today. Reported by The Verge, the demise of the next Pixelbook comes on the heels of a company memo from CEO Sundar Pichai in which Google’s leader stated that hiring would be slowed and that certain areas of development would be paused. This wouldn’t necessarily result in cutbacks but instead, the “redeploying of resources to higher priority areas.” According to The Verge’s undisclosed source, one of the areas of development was the team in charge of the Pixelbook.
Google has canceled the next version of its Pixelbook laptop and dissolved the team responsible for building it. The device was far along in development and expected to debut next year, according to a person familiar with the matter, but the project was cut as part of recent cost-cutting measures inside of Google. Members of the team have been transferred elsewhere inside the company.The Verge
If the source is correct and this information is accurate, it looks like Google may have been planning on releasing its next Pixelbook next year. With the new Pixel Tablet likely arriving in the first half of the year, I would wager that the target was a fall release of the Pixelbook at Google’s 2023 hardware event. That’s just my two cents. I have no idea what the company had in the works. Regardless, none of that matters now. The next Pixelbook is no more and the team will likely be dispersed to work with OEM partners in creating the next generation of ChromeOS devices but that may not be a bad thing…
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” That’s a great saying and believe that it is at the heart of much of Google’s hardware strategy. Dating all the way back to the original Google Pixel Chromebook and the Nexus family of Android phones, Google’s hardware has often taken on the form of halo devices that were meant to be a guiding light for other manufacturers. That mantra has changed a bit since the debut of the all-new Tensor-powered Pixel phones but it is still part of the fabric of which Google is woven. Like the saying above, Google often ”appears” when the Android or ChromeOS ecosystem needs a little nudge. To understand a possible reason behind Google exiting the Chromebook market right now, we need to look at the rest of that saying. The part that most of us forget.
When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will disappear.
ChromeOS has come of age. You may not agree and that’s okay but like it or not, Chromebooks are everywhere. Google has succeeded in bringing ChromeOS to the masses and making the relatively young operating system a mainstream staple in schools, homes, and perhaps most importantly, the enterprise sector. We can discuss that more at a later date but the fact remains, Chromebooks are here to stay. Google knows that. PC makers know it. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have $2,000 ChromeOS devices like the HP Elite Dragonfly that have every feature and are on par with some of the nicest Windows machines on the market. Make no mistake, giant OEMs don’t gamble on a device and let them bear the name of premier device lines unless they believe that there is a market for it.
All this to say, I think Google knows that Chromebook manufacturers are fully on board with creating cutting-edge ChromeOS devices that rival anything out there. Maybe Google has decided that the world doesn’t need another Pixelbook. At least not right now. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t too long ago that Rick Osterloh himself put it out there that Google was out of the tablet game. It took less than three years for that to take a 180 and soon, we’ll have a brand new, Made by Google tablet to enjoy.
Maybe, just maybe, the timing is right for Google to take the Pixelbook back into the shadows. Perhaps a Google Chromebook will once again emerge when, like a mysterious super hero, it is needed. Personally, I really wanted to see a new Pixelbook powered by Google’s Tensor SoC and I know that I am not alone. The ChromeOS world should have a herald and that herald longs to be a Pixelbook but other OEMs have come alongside Google and are making ultra-premium, halo devices that can pick up the torch. As much as we want a new Pixelbook, this may be for the best. To quote Jim Gordon, maybe “the Pixelbook is the Chromebook we deserve, but not the one we need right now.”
Source: The Verge