Google Gives Up on Tablets

Posted on June 20, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Google, Mobile, Android, Chrome OS with 54 Comments

Google has confirmed a new report claiming that it will not follow up its lackluster Pixel Slate. Google has exited the tablet market.

Computerworld’s JR Raphael writes that he learned just today that Google had planned to ship two smaller tablets this year but dropped those plans and will instead focus on laptops. The firm will continue to make new Pixel smartphones too, of course. (Raphael says that “Pixel phones and Pixel computers are [made by] two different departments” within Google.)

More important, Raphael says that Google confirmed the retreat.

“The news was revealed at an internal company meeting on Wednesday, and Google is currently working to reassign employees who were focused on the abandoned projects onto other areas,” he writes. “Many of them, I’m told, have already shifted over to the laptop side of that same self-made hardware division.”

Google also told Raphael that it was possible that the firm would follow-up its Pixelbook with a new laptop later this year.

As you may recall, this is the second time this year we’ve heard of problems in Google’s hardware business: Google was previously known to be scaling back its hardware ambitions and downsizing the group that makes its laptops and tablets.

“The issue isn’t whether Google is serious or not about hardware,” I wrote at the time. “It’s whether it can succeed in this effort. And it cannot.”

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Comments (54)

54 responses to “Google Gives Up on Tablets”

  1. Simard57

    I have been intending to post an "ask Paul" about if Tablets have failed? they were supposed to replace computing but seem to have hit their ceiling and retreated. Their market has been eaten away by Phablets.

    given three devices, Smart Phone, Tablet or Laptop -- which two would you take on a trip. usual answer is Phone and Laptop

    • digiguy

      In reply to Simard57:

      iPads have not failed, they are a big business and are getting better and better. The consequence? Android and Chrome OS tablets are slowly disappearing...

      • MikeGalos

        In reply to digiguy:

        Tablets, period, have failed. NetMarketShare shows them as only 4.6% of the computing market.

        • skane2600

          In reply to MikeGalos:

          Based on the down-votes, it seems there's a lot of denial here about the viability of tablets. It's been nearly decade since the iPad was introduced and it's very clear that tablets will never be PC replacements.

        • William Clark

          In reply to MikeGalos:

          Statista seems to disagree, in terms of units sold tablets aren't that far behind laptops and were outselling them 5 of the last 6 years. (for some reason I can't post the link)

          I'm unclear on what NetMarketShare is actually saying here? I don't see how tablets, which according to Statista have been selling on-par with, if not ahead of, laptops has only 4.6% market share.

      • Stooks

        In reply to digiguy:

        They have not failed but their numbers have dropped and have been dropping for a while now.

        Until Apple gives us real mouse/trackpad support I will never consider an iPad as anything more than 95% consumption 5% light creation because it is the device in front of me and I do not want to get up and go to a computer.

    • jaredthegeek

      In reply to Simard57:

      Most people don't take their laptop with them at all.

      • skane2600

        In reply to jaredthegeek:

        It depends on the kind of trip. A vacation trip to hike a mountain - no laptop or tablet, maybe smartphone. A typical business trip - most likely a smartphone and laptop.

      • Stooks

        In reply to jaredthegeek:

        I leave on vacation next week, will be taking my iPhone, iPad and T580 with me. The iPad will be for reading kindle books and watching content on the plane/airport. The laptop will be for anything serious.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to Simard57: Interesting you should ask. Here I am on a 10 day vacation and I brought my Surface Go and two phones, iPhoneX and Pixel 3. Guess we need to define tablet, though. Is a Go a tablet? How about the traditional Surface? The Go does everything I need to do, personally, and has the advantage of allowing for a physical keyboard (which I am using) and mine has LTE, which is handy on the road. The reason for two phones, is two-fold. The iPhone is my primary phone, and supports stalking my party easily (Find my friends), but the Pixel has an arguably more versatile camera...and it uses Google Fi which has way better coverage than AT&T where I am. So for this trip, Phone and tablet are just fine, if we allow that a Surface Go is a tablet.

  2. Pierre Masse

    If they just have priced those tablets correctly they would have been a success. They are just plain stupid, trying to emulate Apple with subpar products and OSes. They have also the "pure Android" value on their side, and they do nothing with it. Dumb!

  3. vernonlvincent

    Can't image why people would be worried about Stadia staying around.

  4. eric_rasmussen

    I really enjoy my Kindle. It's the perfect media consumption device, which is really the only thing I need a larger tablet screen for. For everything else I either use a smartphone or a PC.

  5. bill_russell

    with the latest basic ipads found routinely on special for $250, there really is just no reason not to go iPad if you want a tablet. I rooted for the competition but they dropped off one by one, except samsung, and super cheap ones that probably don't actually get used for long.

    I remember seeing the first ipad reveal and thinking how high priced they were.

    But then the Xoom was announced and it cost MORE, only being aviable as the celluar model, but you had to mail it back at some point in to get the modem installed and the SD card support wasn't ready at launch, nor I think was flash. All the advantages over the iPad that they advertised.

    • j_c

      In reply to Bill_Russell:

      Plus most of the Android tablets and apps are terrible. I tried making them work for me for years. Then I got an iPad and realized just how big the gulf between them was.

      • William Clark

        In reply to j_c:

        I have to agree. If all you want to do is watch Netflix, read a Kindle book, email or web surfing Android tablets are just fine and there are lots of lower cost options. When you get into more specialized apps, like Marine navigation, iPad seems to be better. And there are odd differences between Android and iOS apps like Facebook. With iOS, users can open my restaurant menus in the Facebook app, Android is missing this feature (unless they added it recently). I often get calls from customers about seeing menus and the first thing I ask is what phone are you using? It's always Android.

        Contrary to what one of the other commentors said, I am actually using my new iPad Air for more than just consumption. I got the Logitech keyboard and am doing work emails, documents, spreadsheets and MS Teams. Still have to work out some of the nuances of using Teams on iOS but I am able to do web demos via Teams for customers. Does it completely eliminate my laptop? Not yet but it's capable of handling most of the mundane work I do every day. And it makes a nice second screen for my laptop when I travel.

  6. harrymyhre

    Wow this is a major bombshell

    Glad I didn't buy one of those.

  7. red.radar

    I wonder How this decision effect the quality of future android updates for the devices sold.

  8. datameister

    I've been waiting for Google to build a new Nexus 7 tablet for 6 years now. I haven't purchased any of their larger 10" tablets because they are to heavy for ebook reading, and I avoided all third party manufacturers because they never update the software. Did Google do any research on this before they canceled plans on the only tablet I would consider buying?

    I'm beginning to think the modern Google is run by the classic idiot who looks at his phone to the exclusion of everything else.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to DataMeister:

      The Nexus tablets were great devices - in their day - I have two of the 7" ones, my wife has a Nexus 9. But, with phones now having >6" screens in a smaller form factor, the public don't seem to look at tablets in the same way. Mobile phones were always going to cannibalize tablet sales eventually, and even Apple are seeing a big drop off in iPad sales.

      • jdmp10

        In reply to ghostrider:

        The traditional Android tablet even the best ones available (Samsung Tab S series) are fundamentally just a blown up phone experience. Apple finally realized this especially with their phones getting larger with each iteration that to have any sort of future, the iPad for all these years as a large iPhone in essence had to evolve or be canned for good. They finally caved and bit by bit now iPadOS is becoming a legitimate productivity device instead of just a consumption device. The Pixel Slate could've easily been iPadOS' equal if Google really put more resources behind getting it there but just as Google has done so many times before, it was a half-assed effort resulting in a half-assed device/UX so they have no reason to be surprised in the least that the Pixel Slate got reamed in the press for how bad it was. I feel like Google as a company needs to get their heads out their asses if it wants their efforts in hardware to be taken seriously. Look at the Pixel phone line, 3 years in and still their forums are jam-packed with people experiencing all sorts of issues with them and why I wouldn't recommend one to a friend over the equivalent Samsung, as much as I hate Samsung.

  9. codymesh

    The question is why is Google even making their own hardware in the first place? They should have been putting more resources into convincing more OEMs to making Android/Chrome/whatever tablets like what they did with the Nexus program.

    • William Clark

      In reply to codymesh:

      Actually I think the issue is that there were too many OEMs making Android tablets. The problem I always had was knowing which ones would actually perform well and which wouldn't. I think all those low end Android tablets were a turn off for customers because they didn't work as well as the more expensive Samsungs et al.

      Being a closed system, hardware-wise, Apple has better control over the performance of any given model of iPad. In this way the experience was more uniform. Android has the benefit of flexibility in regards to different versions of the OS, different over-lay skins and different price points for hardware but all that flexibility is not necessarily good if the customer feels like they are not getting optimum performance.

  10. Jhambi

    Small tablets are basically phones now. The larger 2-1 in Chromebooks can run android apps. I would say that overall Google succeeded where Microsoft failed when it comes to bridging the small screen space.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Jhambi:

      Well, Google certainly did better in the small screen space with regard to smartphones, but it hasn't bridged that success into larger screen devices. I'm not sure that some tech folks excitement over Chromebooks running Android apps has spilled over to the general public.

  11. zybch

    Just got a Surface Go, and it beats the hell out of any Google tablet I've seen.

    Yes, you pay for it, but it's so polished compare to any 1st or 3rd party Android tablet.

    They should stick to phones, which are often fantastic, Apple and now MS make brilliant tablets, which is where people should look over android.

  12. dontbe evil

    Sayonara ... list is growing

  13. Stooks

    The future of Stadia is easy to predict.

  14. nbplopes

    I think it’s a good idea.

  15. Tony Barrett

    Tablets are pretty much a dead-end device - primarily for consumption, and aimed at consumers. Those said consumers now use large screen phones, so the requirements for tablets have diminished, so I can see exactly why Google are doing this. Chromebooks will take up the slack I'm sure.

  16. dallasnorth40

    I just bought a new Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e. This thing is just great.

  17. wolters

    I expected this. I spent several months with the Pixelbook and while there were some pretty awesome things about it, I ultimately sold mind because of the lackluster "tablet mode", the screen ratio and the awful app drawer.

    I see where the Pixel Slate would have potential but ultimately, those Android Apps just don't translate well. They run and run well but it still feels weird.

    I have a worked issued Samsung Tab S4 and it is a beautiful device...but I tend to just fallback to my Surface for my tablet/laptop needs...pinning Chrome sites to the start menu expends the available "apps" I can use on the Surface.

  18. jaboonday

    Interesting news -- it's amazing that the only company on earth capable of doing software and hardware right while being able to make real money from these pursuits is Apple. I guess competing with your hardware partners really isn't a pathway to success (says the guy who buys nothing but Surface hardware now).

    • djross95

      In reply to jaboonday: You are 100% right, my friend. I'm no huge fan of Apple, but they're the only company with the discipline to stay the course, compete hard, and win in the markets they care about.

  19. chaoticwhizz

    As much as I like Android, Android tablets have been dead for over a year now. Chromebooks are basically the replacement since they run Android apps anyway.

  20. John Noonan

    There has never been a really great Android tablet that was larger than the old Nexus 7 due to the fact that most all of the apps are just blown up phone apps.

    At one time I had a Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet and there were things that I did like about it, but I eventually switched back to iPads. Currently I use the 13 inch iPad Pro and it is a great tablet. It almost replaces a laptop for me and is usually what I use for personal stuff when I travel.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to John_Noonan: Yea, but the Nexus 7 really was a great tablet. I still miss mine. It succumbed to battery bloat. I recently got a home hub and thought it would be neat if they rippled the screen portion off the base and sold it as a tablet.
    • digiguy

      In reply to John_Noonan:

      As I said in the other comment, we are not talking Android tablets here. Those were abandoned by Google a while ago. What Google has just cancelled is Chrome OS tablets.

      • John Noonan

        In reply to digiguy:

        Everything I have read implies it is tablets overall. Yes, it has been some time since Google had released an Android tablet, which made sense when Chrome OS started supporting Android apps, but did they ever officially state that they were out of the Android tablet business altogether? The current announcement would appear to apply to both.

    • Winner

      In reply to John_Noonan:

      The app issue is important if you use a lot of them, but if you are more using a browser for web access then it's not such an issue.

  21. Bats

    Exit the tablet market? But the tablet and the laptop are practically the same thing. There is no point.

    As for this quote:

    “The issue isn’t whether Google is serious or not about hardware,” I wrote at the time. “It’s whether it can succeed in this effort. And it cannot.”

    This is the same guy that said Google's efforts to combine Android and Chrome Os has failed. As we all know that was totally WRONG..... Again.

    I have a very good feel on Google, Microsoft, and the tech industry. I can say this because I have been practically right about everything so far....including Microsoft. Google will get back into the "tablet" market, when it feels that it can. However, the term "tablet" will be different (i.e. 360 etc...). Everything can be done on a smartphone anyway so there is no need for a tablet.

    • Stooks

      In reply to Bats:

      "I can say this because I have been practically right about everything so far"

      Do you get calluses on your hands from patting your self on the back?

  22. TallGuySE

    I read somewhere (maybe on this site) that there really isn’t a tablet market- it’s basically an iPad market. No one else seems to have gained traction with tablets. (I think the Surface Pro is an excellent device, but consider it mostly a laptop with a detachable keyboard)

    • Patrick3D

      In reply to TallGuySE:

      The entire tablet market is shrinking, Apple's share of the market is around 28% and has been shrinking for years. Despite Amazon having some of the most affordable tablets they only have around 12% of the market. Samsung is in 2nd place which I can only assume is from overseas sales as I don't know and have never seen anyone stateside with a Samsung tablet. Surface is a mystery since Microsoft doesn't want to give out hard numbers but we use them at the steel factory I work at. They are great for accessing legacy database's and Intranet content. Out of all of the employees in the company it's the forklift drivers that use them the most (inventory lookup & logging), followed by test engineers. We have some iPads but those are being phased out due to durability/usability issues. I've got a Fire tablet at home (2 actually) but I hate micro-USB cables with a passion and wish they supported Qi wireless charging instead. Whenever I grab one to use it never has a charge and I don't want to leave it plugged in. The only thing about iPad Pro that interests me is the ability to use it for sketching but spending $1,000+ for that one use case is absurd.

    • jaredthegeek

      In reply to TallGuySE:

      The Surface is still kinda awkward as a tablet. I have a Go that I use as a tablet but its a very specific use case. An iPad probably would have worked but I needed a few pieces of software that require little computing power but not available for an iPad.

      • jchampeau

        In reply to jaredthegeek:

        Curious, if you don't mind sharing, what's your use case? I want to get one to take to meetings and run OneNote and Microsoft To-Do. I have a six-year-old iPad Air 2 I use for OneNote now, but it doesn't hold a charge too well anymore and will need to be replaced soon. I want to try the Go, but I'm worried it'll take too long to boot up and launch OneNote and sync. The beauty of the iPad is its near zero boot time/launch time.

  23. aretzios

    I am not surprised. Based on my experience with Chrome OS convertible running the lastest version of the OS, I can say with a lot of confidence that Chrome OS is a very poor OS for tablets. On the other hand, with the right software, Android is great. I do not know what Google was actually thinking. Chrome OS is OK (just passable) in the desktop, but it is not the OS for tablets. For small tasks, Chrome OS in 2 -in -1s would do, but not beyond this. The reason the Slate did not do very well is not because of the limitations of its hardware. It is because the OS is not appropriate for it.