Google exits the laptop market

Google exits the laptop market

The Pixelbook could just sleep ... (Pixelbook-Go-AMR)

The Pixelbook could just sleep … (Pixelbook-Go-AMR)

Google is eliminating another piece of premium hardware, with the Pixelbook joining the Pixel Slate, Google Glass, and Project Ara modular phones in scrapping.

The Pixelbook was a Chromebook designed to prove that Google’s Chrome OS could thrive on premium hardware, along with the cheap and cheerful models currently dominating the market at around £ 300 a pop. A third generation model was widely expected for next year. However, that plan has now been abandoned, according to The Verge, thanks to Google’s broader cost-cutting measures.

This Pixelbook has always been a bit of a weird concept. The main appeal of Chrome OS is the lightweight nature of the software, which means it doesn’t need high-end specs to make it fly. The use of Intel Core i5 and i7 processors has always been overkill, even if the premium build quality has gone some way to mitigate the blow of its skyrocketing price. Some models cost as little as £ 1,699 (with maximum performance and capacity), although the Pixelbook Go variant has reduced the price to “only” £ 629 for the entry-level model.

While Google doesn’t separate Chromebook sales into its financial versions, it’s hard to believe the Pixelbook was making a big leap in the overall Chrome OS market.

Strength or weakness?

There are two ways to turn this news. The positive angle is that, for Google, the Pixelbook – and its predecessor, the Chromebook Pixel – have done their job by promoting Chrome OS and gaining a foothold in the market to be a viable alternative to Windows or macOS.

In the 20 months before Google began manufacturing its own laptop hardware, the all-new Chrome OS was struggling to gain ground, reaching a US market share of just 0.2% in 2012, according to the NPD group. This rose to 9.6% the following year when the Chromebook Pixel appeared. By 2021, with two Pixelbooks in circulation, Google was celebrating overtaking Chrome OS on macOS in annual sales, mainly thanks to the growing popularity of Chromebooks in the education sector.

Even so, it’s hard to believe that the Pixelbook played a very direct role in this success, aside from raising the profile of Chromebooks and providing other manufacturers with a model to aspire to. In fact, you could argue that Google has done just that, with a handful of premium Chromebooks, like the Asus CX9, now tops the four-figure price tag.

The Pixelbook’s indirect impact is hard to quantify, but the negative impact is much easier to see – this is another piece of hardware that has failed to impress the broader market. It joins a long line of failed Google hardware projects and more literally hundreds of dead software projects.

While there’s something to be said about knowing when to quit, it doesn’t even send a big message when Google doesn’t have enough faith in the market it has created to want to own a slice of it. After all, you don’t see the company pulling the plug from its Android-based Pixel phones, despite their relatively modest sales.

One thing worth noting about Google’s history as a hardware maker is that it can be quite indecisive. In 2019, Google announced it would be giving up on tablets to focus on laptops. Now, just three years later, Big G is reportedly ditching laptops and preparing to launch another tablet next year.

Perhaps this means that the Pixelbook is not dead, but simply asleep, ready to rise again, like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes, following the next Google management review. Until then, if you want a premium Chromebook, it won’t have the familiar “G” logo on the chassis.

The Standard contacted Google for comment but did not respond within the agreed deadline.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.