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Google’s cost-cutting kills Pixelbook division


The Google Pixelbook Go laptop on a white table.
Enlarge / The Pixelbook Go starts at $649 for a Core m3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage.

Valentina Palladino

Google’s hardware division continues to be unable to field a consistent, reliable hardware selection. A report from The Verge claims Google has “canceled the next version of its Pixelbook laptop and dissolved the team responsible for building it.” This has been the case for several years, but the only new Chromebooks out there will be ones from third parties.

The last laptop released by the company was the Chromebook Go in 2019, which is still for sale at store.google.com. Shortly after that device’s launch, reports surfaced that the laptop and tablet division was being downsized. While the tablet plans managed to recover thanks to Android, the laptop plans are apparently dead. The last credible Google laptop rumors were from the lead-up to the Google Tensor/Pixel 6 launch. Google was rumored to be making its own chips and, along with a phone (Pixel 6) rumors, consistently claimed a laptop version of the chip would be happening. Google Hardware SVP Rick Osterloh said as recently as May that the company was “going to do Pixelbooks in the future,” and the report says “the device was far along in development and expected to debut next year” before it was canceled.

The reason for the dissolution of the Pixelbook team is apparently Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s cost-cutting. The Google CEO said in August that “productivity as a whole is not where it needs to be for the headcount we have” and warned that the company would be “consolidating where investments overlap and streamlining processes.” The Verge’s report says, “The Pixelbook team and the Pixelbook itself were casualties of that consolidation and redeployment.”

Taking Google Hardware seriously as a real business has always been difficult. Google treats the hardware market like a small side hobby and only sells devices in a small number of countries. Google Hardware’s product lines are barely product “lines” at all, with inconsistent releases and none of the iterative yearly improvements that seem to power other hardware operations. Without an automatic yearly Pixelbook release, Google’s timing with this relaunch would have been awful. It last released a Chromebook a year before the pandemic, and when the pandemic hit and Chromebook sales were at an all-time high, Google had nothing to offer. Google’s Pixelbook would have arrived just before Chromebook sales crashed back to Earth.

The instability of Google Hardware means no dead product is ever truly dead. Google quit making tablets in 2015, came back for Chrome OS tablets in 2018, then quit for another three years, and now it’s planning to launch a new Android tablet in 2023. Surely, we’ll get another Google laptop someday, but we’ll just have to wait a few more years.



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