Google canceled its next Pixelbook and shut down the team building it

Google canceled its next Pixelbook and shut down the team building it

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

Just a few months ago, Google planned to keep the Pixelbook going. Ahead of its annual I/O Developer Conference, Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh said The edge that “we’re going to make Pixelbooks in the future”. But he also acknowledged that the Chromebook market has changed since 2017, when the original (and best) Pixelbook launched. “The great thing about the category is that it’s 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 once did.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, has said for months that he intends to slow hiring and cut some projects at the company. “In some cases, that means consolidating where investments overlap and streamlining processes,” he wrote in a July memo. “In other cases, it means pausing development and redeploying resources to higher priority areas.” Both the Pixelbook team and the Pixelbook itself have fallen victim to this consolidation and redeployment.

“Google does not share future product plans or personnel information; However, we are committed to creating and supporting a portfolio of innovative and useful Google products for our users,” said Laura Breen, Head of Communications at Google. The edge. “As for our employees, in a time when we are shifting priorities, we are working to transition team members between devices and services.”

Google’s hardware strategy, especially with Pixel devices, has been both to make good products and to try to show other manufacturers how to do the same. He started investing in Pixel phones to show what Google’s vision for Android might look like. More recently, the company has re-engaged in smartwatch manufacturing, with the Pixel Watch coming in a few weeks, and building an Android tablet set to ship next year. These last two devices exist in categories where most Android devices have failed. Google is trying to convince developers, manufacturers, 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 above and beyond, putting ChromeOS – an operating system then Google CEO Eric Schmidt said it would be featured on “completely disposable” hardware – on a device. gorgeous with a price tag of $1,300. Google never meant Chromebook hardware to matter, but hardware matters, and so Google made the best hardware. Still, the Pixel and later Pixelbook models were niche devices with high prices, and while Google wasn’t busting its Chromebook sales, it was clearly too expensive to make a splash in the broader laptop market. .

Google’s original Pixelbook was meant to show off everything a Chromebook could do.
Photo by James Bareham/The Verge

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

Since that device, Google has barely been able to track down what made the Pixelbook great. He continued to chase and Chrome OS-ize anything that looked like the future of computing: First, there was the disastrous Pixel Slate, a tablet with a detachable keyboard that looked a lot like the 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 a hundred dollars less for similar features,” The edge‘s Dieter Bohn wrote in his review of the device. “So with the Pixelbook Go, what are you paying for?”

In 2019, a weird thing happened: Chromebooks were good! Acer, Asus and others had 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 price points and specs. Chromebooks had gone from “crappy but cheap option” to a real alternative to Windows. And most of those options were also significantly cheaper than any of Google’s Pixelbooks.

The devices have been particularly effective in education, but as research firm Canalys analyst Brian Lynch said last year, “Chromebooks are well and truly a consumer computing product now.” There are good Chromebooks available in all shapes and sizes: you can buy Chromebooks that flip over, Chromebooks that fold, Chromebooks that pop out, Chromebooks with ThinkPad-style trackpoints. Even the high-end market has become competitive, with devices like the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 and Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 bringing some of Google’s design prowess to the space.

At the start of the pandemic, when students had to go to school from home, Chromebooks exploded. ChromeOS devices have outsold Apple’s Macs for the first time, according to data from analytics firm IDC. And Canalys said Chromebooks grew 275% between the first quarter of 2020 and the same period in 2021. But as the PC market slowed after a huge early pandemic surge, ChromeOS fell more than most: research firm Gartner predicted that Chromebooks would be down 30% in 2022.

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

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

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

Going forward, it’s clear the company is focusing where it thinks the Android ecosystem needs it: smartwatches and tablets. It’s also possible that after years of trying to create luxurious, state-of-the-art Chromebooks, the company has realized that schools and students are likely to remain ChromeOS’ best customers, and those customers won’t pay. never Google prices.

To be fair, though, Google has a long history of scrapping projects before finally deciding to try them again – smartwatches and even Google Glass all come to mind, and remember three years ago, when Google announced it was pulling out of the tablet business. focus only on laptops? — so Google might one day decide it needs to help revive the Chromebook market. But for now, the ChromeOS market is solid and Google is no longer trying to push it forward.

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