Google’s made a big mistake by canning the Pixelbook

OPINION: Google has a reputation for trashing big projects after a few minor bumps. Google Glass and Google Daydream have both kicked the bucket in recent years.

And this week The Verge reported that Google will be canceling its next Pixelbook laptop and shutting down the team behind it. Given Google’s track record, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

But I honestly thought the popular Pixelbook was one of the few devices safe from Google’s guillotine, and I can’t quite understand the company’s reasons for crating it.

First launched in 2017, the Google Pixelbook was seen as a premium Chromebook that showed other manufacturers that laptops running ChromeOS could offer just as much style as a Windows clamshell.

run a pixel book
Google Pixelbook laptop

It wasn’t perfect, with poor speakers and a price tag that came close to high-end Windows laptops like the MacBook Air. But it was still a great option for those who like the simplicity of ChromeOS and still crave a premium portable device.

In my eyes, the Pixelbook Go successor was even better. Google has watered down the specs to give the wearable a cheaper price point, clocking in at just £629. And while it’s possible to find even cheaper Chromebooks, few had such premium metal construction and the option for a 4K screen.

There are very few Windows laptops that can compete with the Pixelbook at this price – the only one that comes to mind is the Surface Laptop Go 2. Unfortunately, Google hasn’t updated the Pixelbook Go since 2020, so it now feels a bit dated.

That’s a huge shame as it’s a great time for Chromebooks. Qualcomm has made great strides with their laptop processors, noting excellent performance and power efficiency for portable devices like the Acer Chromebook Spin 513. And while Google has previously stuck with Intel chips, I don’t see why it couldn’t strike a deal with Qualcomm, at least for the base configuration.

Top view of a black Pixelbook against a white background
Google Pixelbook Go laptop

We’ve also started bringing high-end features to the Chromebook market. It’s now possible to see Chromebooks with OLED panels and fingerprint scanners that offer a similar experience to Windows laptops that cost twice as much.

ChromeOS has also really matured over the years and is now a great alternative to Windows for those who want a sleeker operating system. The rise of cloud streaming also enables Chromebooks to play games, making them more versatile than ever.

Since Google only launched Google Stadia a couple of years ago, it would make a lot of sense for the company to push its own Chromebook as the best portable platform for the cloud gaming service.

Windows laptops also seem to only get more expensive. The Honor MagicBook series used to be one of the most affordable Windows laptops out there, but the latest MagicBook 14 (2022) model is in a similar price range to Apple’s MacBook Air. As a result, I expect Chromebooks to be a more popular option for those not willing to spend more than £1000 on a laptop.

Honor MagicBook 14 (2022)

The Chromebook market is looking healthier than ever, so it’s a real headache why Google has decided to shut down future Pixelbook projects. It’s not a great look from the company that develops ChromeOS.

The Verge did a good job of pointing out that the Pixelbook’s work is done, as Google probably just wanted to design it to show the potential of future Chromebook laptops. But why stop there?

I’d love to see a Pixelbook with a foldable screen, or some other clamshell design with a 4K OLED display, at an affordable price – imagine how much money that would fetch if it was available at an affordable price.

It would be great to see Google develop its own laptop chip, following the Apple M1 route. Reports from CNBC suggested that Google was planning to do just that after unveiling its Google Tensor chip for the Pixel phones. But with the Pixelbook seemingly scrapped, I’m starting to doubt this Google-made laptop chip will ever see the light of day.

I also think scrapping the Pixelbook plans will hurt Google’s reputation in the long run. It has frozen so many hardware projects at this point that I would hesitate to ever buy Google hardware in the future.

With that in mind, I think it’s a huge mistake for Google to cancel plans for the Pixelbook. But Chromebook fans shouldn’t be too disappointed as I’m sure the industry will continue to thrive, with Acer, HP, Lenovo and Samsung taking the lead.

Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing opinion column, where we dive deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.