Yesterday he Word hit the web that Google has decided to move away from Chromebook hardware firsthand and that the Pixelbook team has shut down. While this is a huge bummer and a sad day for Chromebook lovers, I get it. Gabriel laid out the reason for this move in his post and it makes sense if Google is pulling the reins a bit on staff resources that the Pixelbook-specific team would get the axe.
To reiterate what was said in that post, Google doesn’t have to make Pixelbooks for the Chromebook market to grow. In fact, they technically only made two Pixelbooks over the 11-year lifespan of ChromeOS and only made a total of 5 devices total if you count the Chromebook Pixel and Chromebook Pixel LS. That’s a small amount of ChromeOS maker’s own hardware and each one was designed specifically to advance the market in one way or another. When a new Pixelbook is needed again, I bet we’ll see one.
Google Chromebooks had the special sauce
With the wide variety of Chromebooks on the market right now and a plethora of models still on the way in 2022 alone, there’s no real concern that Chromebook options will diminish any time soon. With bold, high-end Chromebooks like the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook and great mid-range options like the Acer Chromebook Spin 513, there’s likely a Chromebook model to suit your needs.
So what stood out about the Chromebook Pixel, Pixelbook, and Pixelbook Go? What was it about those laptops that attracted so much attention and adoration? None of them had the most advanced specifications compared to the devices released in the same time period. They didn’t have any fancy gadgets or gimmicks and they didn’t run proprietary software you couldn’t get on any other Chromebook. So why were they special at all?
I think the answer boils down to Aesthetics and attention to detail. Google always seemed to choose form over function with its original Chromebooks, and you didn’t just see it: you could feel it too. To this day, the Pixelbook Go is a delight to pick up and use, and the original Pixelbook still looks like a laptop that could have debuted in 2022 (if you ignore the bezels). The build quality isn’t just good: it’s great. The appearance is not only unique: it is a leader in its class.
Like other Google hardware (think Pixel phones, Nest Hubs, etc.), these devices weren’t perfect, but they felt I consider. They felt tested, thoughtfully designed, and thoughtfully crafted. It was as if there was an entire team thinking about things like the feel in the hand, the look of the desktop, and the firmness of the materials. The only other laptops I can find any similarities to are Microsoft’s Surface devices and Apple’s Macbooks. Like Google’s Chromebooks, those devices are in a different class when it comes to aesthetics, looks, build quality, and attention to small details.
Manufacturers must step up
Now that Google seems to be completely out of space, at least for the time being, what what we need to see is some manufacturers to close the gap. While devices like the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook are a solid step in that direction, they still lack the fit and finish that Google put into its devices. Call it a gut feeling or just a penchant for the good stuff, but I’ve yet to pick a single Chromebook (or Windows laptop) that matches the build quality of Google’s Chromebooks, Apple Macbooks, or Apple’s Surface devices. Microsoft.
If that were the end of the story, I’d just acknowledge the fact that most laptop manufacturers are incapable or uncaring when it comes to this kind of high-end build quality. But I don’t think that’s the case and I think there’s more that could happen in the Chromebook space because of the way that Google invests and engages in the entire Chromebook market.
Unlike Windows laptops, Google actually gets involved in each Chromebook which is sold To varying degrees, they’ve got their hands on each and every one, and that means they could help manufacturers who want to make better Chromebooks. The HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is a perfect example: by HP’s own admission, Google was heavily involved in creating that laptop, and it’s truly excellent. It has all sorts of fun features and stands out from the rest of the lineup as the best overall Chromebook you can buy right now.
But I can say after driving it for weeks at this point that Google probably helped with the internals of these Chromebooks, but not the externals. The Dragonfly feels great and is solidly built, but it doesn’t have that attention to detail, fit, and finish that you’d get on a Google product. Is HP incapable of this? Don’t you care about that last detail on your laptops? I bet that’s not the case, but They could use some help and constructive criticism from Google’s hardware team to take a device like the Dragonfly from great to truly amazing.
Perhaps some hardware OEMs could pick up where the Pixelbook left off and decide that they will not only make high-performance Chromebooks, but high-end ones as well. Could Acer, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Dell or ASUS work closely with Google and build a Pixelbook-like device? It wouldn’t have to carry the Pixelbook name or specialized Google branding, but could be marketed as a device created in partnership with Google or something similar.
I think if consumers knew that there are some high-end options that Google helped create in a more Pixelbook-like way, they’d be less concerned about whether or not Google is making a new Chromebook and they’d be much more interested in those devices instead. its place. At the end of the day, people weren’t interested in Pixelbooks for their features or performance — it was all about the quality of the materials, the feel, and the look. Those are hurdles that other OEMs can surely overcome, and if they do, I think strong sales numbers could be generated.
Will we ever see this kind of thing? That’s unclear at the moment, but with the Pixelbook leaving the scene, I think it would be well received. Especially in the consumer market, there is a bit of a hole when we look at the higher end of the spectrum. We have high-end Chromebooks in the business sector, but not on Best Buy shelves. We don’t need a ton of devices, but a mature market needs some, especially with the void left by this latest news from Google. While the middle ground is the meat and potatoes of the Chromebook market, there’s room for success at the top as well. We hope to see some contenders sooner rather than later.