Google’s next Chromebook Pixelbook has been canceled

Google canceled the next version of its Pixelbook laptop and disbanded the team responsible for making it. The device was well advanced in development and is expected to debut next year, according to a person familiar with the matter, but the project has been cut as part of recent cost-cutting measures within Google. Team members have been relocated elsewhere within the company.

Until a few months ago, Google was planning to keep the Pixelbook running. Ahead of the annual I / O Developer Conference, said Rick Osterloh, head of hardware at Google The border that “we will do Pixelbooks in the future”. But he also acknowledged that the Chromebook market has changed since 2017, when the original (and better) Pixelbook was launched. “The great thing about the category is that it has matured,” Osterloh said. “You can expect them to last a long time.” One way Google might think about the ChromeOS market is that it just doesn’t need Google like it used to.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, has been saying for months that he intends to slow down hiring and cut some projects across the company. “In some cases, this means consolidating where investments overlap and streamlining processes,” he wrote in a July note. “In other cases, this means suspending development and redistributing resources to higher priority areas.” The Pixelbook team and Pixelbook itself fell victim to that consolidation and redistribution.

“Google does not share future product plans or personnel information; however, we are committed to creating and supporting a portfolio of Google products that are innovative and useful for our users, “said Laura Breen, Google Communications Manager The border. “As for our people, in times of changing priorities, we work to move team members across devices and services.”

Google’s hardware strategy, particularly with Pixel devices, has been to both make good products and try to show other manufacturers how to do the same. He started investing in Pixel phones as a way to show what Google’s version on Android could look like. More recently, the company has re-engaged in smartwatch manufacturing, with the Pixel Watch arriving in a few weeks, and building an Android tablet that will ship next year. Both of these latter devices exist in categories where most of the Android devices have failed. Google is trying to convince developers, producers and customers that they can be good.

Similarly, Google spent nearly a decade trying to prove to the world that a high-end Chromebook was a good idea. With the first Chromebook Pixel in 2013, it deliberately went over the top, putting ChromeOS – an operating system that then Google CEO Eric Schmidt had said would run on “completely disposable” hardware – on a gorgeous device with a price of $ 1,300. Google never wanted Chromebook hardware to be important, but hardware matters and so Google made the best hardware. However, the Pixel and later Pixelbook models were high-priced niche devices, and while Google doesn’t outperform Chromebook sales, it was clearly too expensive to make noise in the broader laptop market.

Google’s original Pixelbook was supposed to showcase all the things a Chromebook could do.
Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

In 2017, when Google launched the Pixelbook, the case of ChromeOS had changed slightly. It was no longer just a beautiful and useful laptop – it was also a convertible and foldable device that could be used as a tablet. Google even built a stylus, called the Pixelbook Pen, to accompany the device. The Pixelbook was Google’s attempt to battle the iPad and MacBook Air in one product. It had the Google Assistant built in, could connect to a Pixel phone and use its data, and could run Android apps. It was all of Google’s computer vision in one body. (It also had one of the best laptop keyboards of all time.)

From that device, Google mostly failed to recover what made the Pixelbook great. It continued to chase and Chrome OS-ize everything that looked like the future of computing: First, there was the disastrous Pixel Slate, a tablet with a pluggable keyboard that looked a lot like Microsoft Surface. Then there was the Pixelbook Go, a smaller and slightly cheaper version of the Pixelbook that, when it launched in 2019, just couldn’t keep up with the competition. “Comparable Chromebooks cost at least $ 100 less for similar features,” The border‘s Dieter Bohn wrote in his review of the device. “So, with Pixelbook Go, what are you paying for?”

In 2019, a strange thing happened: Chromebooks were good! Acer, Asus, and others had actually started investing in non-disposable hardware for their ChromeOS devices. Lenovo had a Yoga Chromebook, and Dell and HP were starting to sell Chromebooks in a wide range of prices and specifications. Chromebooks had gone from “the cheap but cheap option” to a real alternative to Windows. And most of these options were also substantially cheaper than any of Google’s Pixelbooks.

The devices have been particularly successful in education, but as Brian Lynch, an analyst at research firm Canalys said last year, “Chromebooks are truly a mainstream computing product now.” There are good Chromebooks available in all forms – you can buy Chromebooks that flip, Chromebooks that fold, Chromebooks that detach, Chromebooks with ThinkPad-style trackpoints. The high-end market has also become competitive, with devices like the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 and Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 bringing some of Google’s design prowess into space.

In the early days of the pandemic, as students had to attend school from home, Chromebooks exploded. ChromeOS devices first sold Apple’s Macs, according to data from analytics firm IDC. And Canalys said Chromebooks grew 275% between Q1 2020 and the same period in 2021. But as the PC market slowed after an initial huge surge in the pandemic, ChromeOS fell more than most: the Research firm Gartner has predicted that Chromebooks will be down 30% in 2022.

An Acer Spin 714 Chromebook, open in stand mode, on a dark wooden table.

Acer and other PC makers have stepped up their Chromebook gaming in recent years.
Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Meanwhile, Google hasn’t shipped a new laptop in nearly three years, although the Pixelbook Go is still on sale in the company’s store. In recent months, some have speculated that Google’s Tensor chip could be a reason the company can reinvest in space, looking for ways to bring its AI prowess to ChromeOS and laptops, and to solve the compatibility problem. Android once and for all.

Moving forward, it’s clear that the company is focusing where it believes the Android ecosystem needs it: smartwatches and tablets. It’s also possible that after years of trying to make luxurious, state-of-the-art Chromebooks, the company has realized that it’s likely that schools and students will continue to be ChromeOS’s best customers, and that those customers will never pay Google’s prices. .

To be fair, however, Google has a long history of giving up on projects before finally deciding to try them again – smartwatches and even Google Glass all come to mind and remembers three years ago when Google said it was exiting the tablet business to focus. exclusively on laptops? – so Google may one day decide it needs to help the Chromebook market again. But for now, the ChromeOS market is strong and Google is no longer trying to push it forward.

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