Well, she had a good run. Google’s flagship Pixelbook 2-in-1 Chromebook is no longer available via the Google Store or Best Buy, for that matter. Navigating to Google’s online storefront and clicking into the landing page for the iconic Pixelbook will present you with the news that it is “out of stock” but a report from Engadget implies that our beloved #madebygoogle Chromebook will not make a return. I suppose it’s time for the Pixelbook to retire to greener pastures. The Chromebook has been on the market for just shy of three years which is nearly three times longer than the 2015 Chromebook Pixel was available.
When I first saw the news that the Pixelbook was no longer for sale, my knee-jerk reaction was that of many. A small glimmer of hope that the Google “Launch Night In” event that’s happening next week might include a surprise appearance of a Google-made Chromebook. Admittedly, I spent a few minutes daydreaming about how Google could crash their own show with a new Pixelbook that completely blind-sides us and everyone else in the space. Alas, as much as I want that to be true, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. Here’s why.
As much as I’d love to see a new Google Chromebook hit the market for no other reason than we’re fanboys, the timing is all wrong. Comet Lake CPUs have been on the market for nearly a year now and we’ll likely see some more 10th Gen devices trickle down here and there. However, Google would be shooting themselves in the foot by releasing a premium Pixelbook successor in 2020 with Intel’s Tiger Lake chipsets on the way. If you haven’t heard the news, Intel’s Tiger Lake with Xe graphics has come out of the gate swinging with benchmarks that can go up against some devices with discrete GPUs. Check out this video from David Lee as he works to contain his enthusiasm at how powerful this new CPU really is.
Double the performance of the previous generation. That’s insane and it’s exactly the shot in the arm that Chrome OS needs to move into the next evolution of the software’s capability. With the possibility of Chrome OS having its own Steam client and Linux applications bringing users into the world of professional-grade video editing, Tiger Lake feels like it could have been custom-designed specifically with Chromebooks in mind. I know that’s not the case but still, having this much power on a single CPU is the solution to the very few things where Chrome OS still falls short. Yes, we have seen evidence that Chromebooks could soon use discrete GPUs but that also comes at a pretty hefty trade-off. Price and power consumption. Intel’s Tiger Lake CPU can offer the best of both worlds by offering competition-lever graphics and the cost-effectiveness of an all-in-one integrated chipset.
Enough about Tiger Lake. Let’s get back to the #madebygoogle roadmap. Aside from the Pixel Slate, Google has kept a pretty consistent 2-year release cycle with its Chromebooks. Let’s be honest. The Slate felt more like an experiment and despite the hardware being absolutely stunning, the operating system’s lack of tablet maturity resulted in that experiment being a massive failure. That said, it just isn’t the right time for Google to launch a new Chromebook. Our bet is that the device codenamed ‘Halvor’ is Google’s next Pixelbook and it will most likely be a true successor to the original Pixelbook 2-in-1. Halvor is powered by the Tiger Lake chipset and given the pace of development, we likely won’t see any of Intel’s 11th Gen 10nm CPUs in a Chromebook until well into 2021. With that timeline in place, Google’s next hardware event makes perfect sense for the release of the next-generation Pixelbook. Tiger Lake will be fresh enough that Google can proudly present a new flagship device and the graphics boost should allow the folks in Mountain View to premier some new features and capabilities in Chrome OS.
What about the Pixelbook Go?
The Pixelbook Go is a bit of an odd bird. The Amber Lake processor is technically just a polished up refresh of the same Y-series Kaby Lake CPUs found in the Pixel Slate. Still, both devices have nearly six years left before they reach End of Life and the processors offer more than enough horsepower for most users that don’t need power-hungry Linux apps. The Pixelbook Go also remains one of the most well-built, beautifully, and intentionally designed Chromebooks on the market. While some feel the Go is still overpriced, there are very few flaws in Google’s clamshell Chromebook and honestly, it’s worth the money if you are the type to spend your money of products on the high end of the quality spectrum. Google has zero reasons to refresh the Pixebook Go at the moment.
Robby and I were just chatting about what kind of shifts Google could make with its hardware and we both feel that the Pixelbook Go does not need to be redefined. Taking a Mac approach could be a very smart move for Google. Every eighteen months or so, put out a new Pixelbook Go with a newer CPU and minor tweaks to refine what is already a near-perfect device. The Go isn’t designed for developers or Linux enthusiasts. It was made for the on-the-go employee and consumer that wants a premium experience in a device that looks as sharp as anything on the market. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with a “bigger and better” Pixelbook Go and for that reason, I don’t expect we’ll see a new one until next fall at the very earliest. Perhaps, Google will launch the Go 2 alongside the Tiger Lake Pixelbook 2 at the 2021 hardware event. Regardless of which direction Google goes, we’ll be watching live next Wednesday and we hope you’ll join us. If you’re part of our Patreon community, you can definitely expect some hearty chat over in the Discord chat. Who knows what could happen?