Google’s first-party hardware team is abandoning plans for new tablets, with engineers working on those projects up for reassignment, according to Computerworld. This news comes one month after the Pixel Slate, Google’s last tablet—which actually runs Chrome OS, with support for Android apps—received a $200 price cut. This put the Intel Core m3-powered model at the price point of the budget Celeron model, which nominally existed, though new units were never produced after the initial run sold out.
The Pixel Slate received middling reviews, with CNET criticizing the pricing, and noting that it “feels a little too heavy and has buggy software and unimpressive performance.”
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Despite Google’s abandoning the tablet form factor, Google senior vice president Rick Osterloh promised continued cooperation with Android OEMs for future products, though ASUS, once one of the largest producers of Android tablets, abandoned the product line in April.
These claims of support ring hollow, considering the Android team’s struggles in making the tablet experience enjoyable. The future of Android on tablets has been an open question for roughly two years. In 2018, Google accidentally deleted the tablet section entirely from the Android product spotlight website, while the Chrome OS-powered Pixel Slate signaled that Google is prioritizing Chrome OS for larger devices.
Because of Android’s licensing terms—as well as those of the Google Play Store—new Android tablets will continue to be produced by minor brands, though the user experience is essentially guaranteed to remain static, with major version upgrades (if even made available) unlikely to bring user-facing changes.
Of note, IDC figures the tablet market as having shrunk 10.8% in 2018, with detachables also shrinking for the first time since 2011. Android comprises three quarters of the global smartphone market, if figures from Statcounter are to be believed, but the Android tablet market has long been a race to the bottom, particularly as Amazon’s Fire series of tablets—which run Android, though lack use of Google Play Services—significantly undercutting the market by positioning themselves as cheap content consumption devices.
Google’s hardware team has stopped trying to compete one-on-one with Apple
This is not the first time that Google has ceded ground to Apple, and other vendors. Google’s hardware division, under the guidance of ex-Motorola executive Rick Osterloh, has lost interest in developing Android devices other than phones. At Google I/O 2018, the Android TV team gave away reference devices to developers, in order to use the newest version of Android TV, as Google’s hardware team never produced a replace to the Nexus Player. Meanwhile, Apple TV is still actively marketed.
Now, without a competitor to the iPad and Surface, Google is giving up as Apple is doubling down on tablets, with the introduction of iPadOS at WWDC 2019, bringing more tablet-specific features not available in iOS on phones.
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