Google finally announced that it gave up its tablet business. The Google hardware team will focus on building laptops, and google will continue to support other partners in tablet development in the future.
This is not good news for users or for Google, which is unfortunate given the amount of time and effort Google has put into this area. so, there are more questions: Why is Google still not succeeding after all this effort? What exactly is Google’s problem down the road? Are there new opportunities in the future?
With these questions in mind, checking out Google’s tablet history, and the answer may be in there.
Published: January 2011
The Motorola Xoom, debuted at CES in January 2011, was the first shot in the Android tablet race, and it was the product of Google’s battle with Apple’s iPad on tablets.
The reason is simple: the Xoom is the first tablet to run Android 3.0 Honeycomb system, with a new tablet-specific UI that includes an improved task-switching and notification interface, and bookmarks syncing and auto-fill forms were also first introduced, which was a distinct feature over the iPad at the time.
On the hardware side, the Xoom is no less powerful as the IPAD, with a 10.1 inch, 1280×800 resolution display, compared to the first generation iPad with 9.7 inch, 1024×768 resolution display. Xoom has a 1 GHz multi-core processor Nvidia Tegra 2 T20, with 1 GB of RAM and 32 GB of ROM, which was a very robust hardware configuration at the time.
The efforts in software and hardware have earned the Motorola Xoom a lot of media acclaim and demonstrated Google’s commitment to tablets. Still, high pricing ($799 versus $499 for the iPad) and a lack of start-up APPs haven’t made it as popular as the iPad, which sold about 100,000 units in its six weeks on the market. But next door, Apple sold 300,000 of the first-generation iPads on the first day, and the introduction of its successor, the Xoom 2, in November of that year didn’t make much of a dent. In the end, Google’s 2011 report card on tablets wasn’t great.
Launch Date: June 2012(first generation), July 2013(second generation)
The failure of the Xoom didn’t stop Google’s tablet dream, but rather reinforced its desire to make a tablet by itself. In 2012, Google began working with OEMs to create its own line of Android powered tablets, called Google Nexus, through independent design, development, and marketing.
The number 7 on the Nexus 7 doesn’t represent a 7th generation device, but rather a 7-inch screen. With Android 4.1, Google’s new operation system (Project Butter changes) and a new smart assistant, Google Now, makes it fluent and easier to use.
The hardwares were: a 1.3 GHz NVIDIA TEGRA 3 quad-core processor, 1 GB of RAM combined with 8 GB / 16 GB / 32 GB ROM, and the 7-inch 1280×800 display, which made it better than many phones at the time. The overall size (198.5×120×10.5 mm) and weight (340G) made it more portable than the iPad, attracting a lot of users (the IPAD mini got available for another five months) .
It’s the price that really makes the decision. The Nexus 7 captured people’s hearts with a starting price of $199(8 GB of RAM), and the latest system and good Google Service further cemented that appeal, and the product’s misplaced competition with the iPad has finally lifted its spirits, with sales of 7 million units. Google continued these fine traditions with the subsequent release of the second-generation Nexus 7. It is in fact Google’s most successful tablet product.
Launch Date: October 2012
In addition to making the Nexus 7 with Asus, Google also partnered with Samsung to launch the Nexus 10 in 2012. It’s a 10.1-inch tablet that also runs Android 4.2, following Google’s lead on the Nexus model, which still has strong hardware and the latest Android experience.
But, compared with the fourth-generation iPad released in the same year, the Nexus 10’s dual core Exynos 5 processor was no match for the iPad’s A6X processor. Though Nexus 10 had a higher resolution, but Retina Display on the 9.7-inch iPad was excellent with the mature iPad software ecosystem, the Nexus 10 product didn’t make much of a splash.
Launch Date: October 2014
The Nexus 9 is probably Google’s least-visible tablet. Unlike Apple that has been slow to ramp up its product line, Google hasn’t stuck to one size fits all. By 2014, the Nexus 9, developed jointly with HTC, was to be 8.9 inches, pretty close to the 9.7-inch iPad Apple upheld for a long time.
The Nexus 9 used an Nvidia Tegra k 1 chip with a combination of 2 Gb RAM and 16 GB / 32 GB ROM, and its most distinctive hardware feature was probably HTC’s Boom Sound front-mounted dual speaker feature, but it was a far cry from the IPAD Air 2 luanched that year.
First, at the approximate weight, 425g of Nexus 9 and 437g of IPAD Air 2, the IPAD Air 2(6.1 mm) was 1.85 mm thinner than the Nexus 9(7.95 mm) . Second, Apple’s device was attractive enough with a better screen and a stronger A8x chip. Although the IPAD Air 2 is $100 more expensive, the gap between the two has opened up. While Google’s Android 5.0 for the Nexus 9 had changed a lot, compared to Apple’s iOS 10, it was clear that in terms of the tablet software ecosystem, once again, Google was falling behind.
Launch Date: September 2015
Google’s next big shift in thinking about tablets came with Pixel C launched in 2015. The upgrade from the Nexus to the Pixel brand, and the official answer that Nexus no longer existed, meant that the cost-effective approach of the Nexus era had been replaced by a higher-end, more design-oriented product approach, and that was Pixel C.
The Pixel C, which some users at the time called the most powerful Android tablet, is a departure from the plastic body of the previous Nexus tablet, adding texture through the addition of metal, becoming more Apple. The 2,560×1,800 resolution of the 10.2 inch screen and the 1.9 GHz Nvidia Tegra X1 8-core chip gave the tablet a “flagship” feel. Google also paired it with an external keyboard. So, Pixel C is also a product as a tablet that Google is turning its tablet direction.
But on the system side, Google didn’t make any changes. The Pixel C was paired with the latest version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but it didn’t feature as well in tablet mode. As the Surface’s system in tablet mode is increasingly sophisticated, and Android 6.0 is not as good as its own Chrome OS, which leaves the device with good hardware but no use for it.
Launch Date: October 2018
As Chrome OS getting matures up, building on Pixel’s overall product design language, Google finally launched Pixel C successor in 2018 — the Pixel Slate — after a three-year hiatus.
Unlike the previous generation Pixel C, which was designed with obvious “reference” in mind, the Pixel Slate overall shows the design language of Pixel series. whether material on the back plate, or external keyboard design, are more affinity. The product itself is also compatible with both Chrome OS and Android, so the use range is expanded.
The Pixel Slate is also focusing on the experience in terms of hardware, starting with Intel core processors, a larger screen and resolution, as well as dual stereo speakers, to provide a good experience in both work and play. Titan M security chips are also available to help keep users’ information secure.
Still, the Pixel Slate wasn’t as powerful as Apple’s iPad Pro launched in 2018. Not only has Apple added an A12x processor and a Face ID to the iPad Pro, but it was also moving towards productivity tools at the system level. The new Apple Pencil was so powerful that Pixel Slate couldn’t match it.
When Apple released the first iPad in April 2010, the tablet, a new category that sits somewhere between a laptop and a phone, was introduced. Better audio and video performance, and easier controls, give it an edge in everyday entertainment, while the lower cost over a laptop makes it a convenient device for the young and the old. All of this has been helping Apple open up the market quickly, and other companies saw the blue ocean, and Google entered the fray and began its own tablet path.
But from the Xoom to Pixel Slate, from ambition to abandonment, it’s no accident that Google has been a step behind Apple on tablets, in terms of configuration and ecology. Apple has built a hardware and software ecosystem, and the growing diversity of the product line, and the variety of products available at different prices, have created a loyal enough user base, and that in turn has pushed Apple forward, and that’s probably the real reason why google gave up the tablet business.
Google tends to give up on businesses that are destined for failure. Giving up the tablet business, like giving up Google Reader or Google + before, is just a normal operation, but the shift may give other rivals a chance. Google goes down in tablet business, and the rest manufacturers will move on. Unfortunately, Google got up early in the morning and was unable to catch the late show.