Google has cancelled its Pixelbook laptop and shut down its development team. According to reporting by The Verge (opens in new tab), Google made the decision in order to cut costs and consolidate its product portfolio, though it’s just as likely because the Pixelbook was simply unable to distinguish itself enough from the improving quality of other manufacturer’s Chromebooks.
Well-made Chromebooks—which are ostensibly budget laptops—made it difficult for Google to justify the premium price of the Pixelbook. At its heart it’s still a Chromebook, and that made it difficult to generate enough interest to compete with the likes of Macbooks or Microsoft’s Surface.
Despite the tough competition, the Pixelbook showed off what a Chromebook was really capable of, combining a high spec and premium design with the Chrome OS and full Android support. But that combination relegated it to niche status. With Pixelbooks launching at $999/£999 (opens in new tab) and going up to $1,699/£1,699 it was always going to be a tough sell in a competitive market.
The next Pixelbook was reportedly in the later stages of its development, indicating other factors contributed to its cancellation. The post-pandemic downturn in the PC market is surely one of those factors. Chromebook sales boomed during the early days of the pandemic, as parents scrambled to buy affordable laptops for kids forced to learn from home during long lockdown periods. That kind of growth was unsustainable, and as we reported back in April, worldwide PC shipments fell by 7.3% in the first quarter of 2022 (opens in new tab). If Chromebooks are removed though, the market actually grew by 3.3%. Ouch.
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Faced with that kind of drop in demand and the difficulty of convincing buyers to pay big bucks for what many users consider to be a budget platform, we shouldn’t be surprised that Google wasn’t confident in the Pixelbook going forward.
It’s a bit of a shame really. Android’s versatility remains a strength, and the Pixelbooks powerful hardware delivered a quality user experience, but that was in 2017. Smartphones are even more ubiquitous now, while Windows devices and Macbooks retain their own strengths, particularly with regards to professional applications, productivity, multitasking or the Windows UI.
The Pixelbook’s hardware was great, but it was a niche product. Google is still committed to its Pixel phone and smartwatch businesses, leaving the Pixelbook as an interesting product in Google’s history, but somewhat sadly, one that didn’t live up to its potential.