Did you know Google makes laptops? Unless you’re a hardcore fan of the company’s platforms, you might have missed it entirely. Since 2013 Google has made four, count ’em, four different Chromebooks, designed to show off the operating system to the fullest. The Chromebook Pixel, Pixelbook, and Pixelbook Go were all well-received by critics, but generally ignored by consumers. According to a new report, that’s pretty much over: there’s no new Google-made Chromebook on the horizon.
The Verge reports that the internal Google team responsible for laptop designs has been split up and reassigned elsewhere. While a refreshed Pixel laptop was apparently in the works for next year, it’s been scrapped. Google’s current focus as far as hardware is concerned is Android, as it beefs up the Pixel phone line with its very first self-branded smartwatch and another stab at an Android tablet. While the “budget” Pixelbook Go is still technically for sale, it’s now been three years since it launched.
An expensive device among a sea of cheaper ones is a familiar refrain for Google’s Chrome-powered hardware. The original Chromebook Pixel and the convertible Pixelbook were both gorgeous and powerful machines, but their asking price was more than double that of the typical budget-focused Chromebook. The Pixel Slate, to date the company’s only Chrome OS-powered tablet, was positioned as a competitor to devices like Microsoft’s Surface Pro. But with hardware that was decent at best and capability far behind its erstwhile competition, the Slate was an instant flop. The Pixelbook Go was meant to be a simpler and cheaper design with a conventional clamshell form factor, but at $650, it was still hundreds of dollars more expensive than the budget machines that are the heart and soul of the Chromebook market.
In short, it sure feels like Google’s Chrome OS and Chrome hardware teams aren’t on the same page. And if The Verge’s report is accurate, the latter doesn’t really exist anymore. The former isn’t doing so hot, either: after a phenomenal sales boom during the pandemic, global Chromebook shipments dropped by more than 60 percent in the first quarter of 2022. Previously outselling Mac hardware and posing a serious threat to Windows in the budget segment, Chrome OS powered just 6 percent of new laptops sold in the same period.
Don’t count Chrome OS out just yet. It’s still a strong contender for budget machines, propped up by a huge presence in the education market, where its browser-focused structure and super-easy support are appreciated. And if Google doesn’t want to sell you a premium Chromebook, someone else will: the HP Elite Dragonfly and Lenovo ThinkPad C14 are just two such examples. But all things considered, Google bowing out of the laptop hardware market makes sense.
That being said, never say never. Google apparently abandoned Android tablets way back in 2015, when the Pixel C failed to make an impression against the iPad. But earlier this year the company announced yet another Android-powered Pixel tablet. As fickle as Google’s hardware ambitions seem to be, a return to first-party laptop hardware sometime in the future is far from impossible.