Why Google is killing off the Pixel Slate

Google is killing off its Pixel line of homespun tablet hardware. Now, just to be 100% crystal clear, Google is still going to be making Pixel Phones and Pixel Laptops, Home Max and Chromecast Ultra, Nest Thermostats and Nest Cams. But the Pixel Slate. Yeah. That, it seems, has to die.

Computerworld had the story first:

Google's decided to step away from its self-made tablets and focus instead on the laptop form.A Google spokesperson directly confirmed all of these details to me. The news was revealed at an internal company meeting on Wednesday, and Google is currently working to reassign employees who were focused on the abandoned projects onto other areas. Many of them, I'm told, have already shifted over to the laptop side of that same self-made hardware division.

Then, as everyone from tech media to tech YouTube to tech Twitter was furiously, "What…? No. What…? No. What… NO?"-ing the story from blog to video, Google, the same Google that, based AF, mic dropped its own Pixel 4 leak last week, let Rick Osterloh, their Senior Vice President of devices and services, tweet this:

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So, what's going on here and why? To help me sort it all out, I've got Russell Holly of Android Central in the video above, not just because he knows this stuff so well, but because the last few times I've seen him, he's also been all up in the Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad, and I figure that gives him some really valuable insight into the technology and market in general.

Here's what I asked him:

  1. I've owned both of the Nexus 7s, which I liked a lot, and then there was the Pixel C and now Pixel Slate, but could you give us just a brief rundown of Google's history with tablets.
  2. The earlier tablets ran Android but the Pixel Slate run Chrome OS… and the reviews on it weren't exactly great, to be kind. I think even mutual friend Jerry Hildenbrand, in his piece sticking up for it, could only muster an "it's not bad". What do you think happened there?
  3. The knock on Android tablets, like the early days of iPad, has always been that they felt like big phones. That Google never did enough to push tablet apps forward. And the knock on Chrome on tablets is that they felt less like tablets and more like PC screens. What's your take on that?
  4. I've said — everyone's said — for a while that the tablet market is ending up like the music player market, in that just like it was mostly an iPod market, it's become mostly an iPad market. As a consumer, I don't really like that. I want every company to feel like they have to race not just to keep up but to get ahead. I know you use everything, so what's your take on the current tablet market and offerings?
  5. Last week Google just tweeted out a teaser for the Pixel 4. Just tweeted it out. Like, we fear no Osborne effect. Some felt that was a sign of newer, hipper Google, others that it indicated the Pixel 3 sales were probably worse than the already bad numbers Google hinted at last quarter. Now we have their Senior VP of devices just tweeting out product plans. Does that tell us anything about how Google sees its products? Should anyone be worried about maybe the phones or laptops being next?
  6. If anyone is looking to get Android on the big screen or Chrome in their hands, what do you think the future looks like? Are you more concerned about it than you were last week, or are you hopeful for the third-party future?

So, RIP Google Pixel tablets. It's sad to see you go. Legitimately. I get that tablets don't have the sheer market size of phones or the commoditization of PCs, which can make developing everything from silicon to software far more expensive. We see that with wearables too, where Qualcomm and Google are both struggling not even to keep up with the Apple Watch but just to stay in the business at all.

Tablets never felt as dire. Or rather, they felt more attainable. So, I really hope Google means what they say. I don't know if it's fair to call their previous tablet support lackluster. It certainly hasn't been super successful to date. But if Google getting out of tablets gets a bunch of ecosystem partners in, and in a way that moves the whole industry forward, we'll all benefit.

I'm an optimist though. So, I'd love to know what you think. What's the future for Android and ChromeOS tablets that you expect? Hit like if you do, hit subscribe if you haven't already, and then hit up the comments below.

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.