Tensor is Google’s chance to reboot the Pixelbook lineup

Tensor is Google’s chance to reboot the Pixelbook lineup

Nikkei Asia just reported how Google “plans to roll out the CPUs for laptops and tablets, which run on the company’s Chrome operating system, in around 2023.” Assuming a fall launch, that is a full two years away from happening.

Axios reported that Google is working on its own processor for Pixel phones. That article correctly pegged 2021 as when it would launch, while also adding that “subsequent versions of Google’s chip could power Chromebooks, but that’s likely to be even further off.”

2023 would match historical precedent in that Google released the first Chromebook Pixel in 2013 and followed that up two years later. Made by Google 2017 saw the Pixelbook and 2019 the Pixelbook Go. There was of course the Pixel Slate in-between, while the two-year cadence would dictate another Pixelbook in 2021.

However, there have been no recent signs of such a device this fall. Google could have significantly ramped up its secrecy, but the likelier possibility is that there’s nothing imminent. It doesn’t make sense for Google to go all out with a third-party chip this year if all that underlying work and status as a flagship gets scrapped two years later. As such, the next milestone we can look forward to is 2023.

Neither the Axios or Nikkei Asia report explicitly said these (presumed) Google Tensor chips would debut on “Pixelbooks.” Of course, this could simply be due to the final product being so far off and branding decisions having yet to be finalized.

Meanwhile, the most recent rumor very interestingly mentioned “tablets.” Google backed away from that form factor in mid-2019 following the Pixel Slate launch — and reportedly killed two in-development tablets with detachable keyboard bases — in favor of laptops, which includes 2-in-1s.

It’s possible that the company is rethinking that decision following the recent success of Chrome OS tablets. This started with Lenovo’s IdeaPad Duet last year, while Asus has the Chromebook Flip CM3000 and HP released the most premium offering so far with the Chromebook x2 11. Unlike the Pixel Slate, these devices are squarely in the low to mid-range and mimic entry-level Chromebooks rather than try to explicitly go after the iPad Pro. This form factor gives people a good-enough laptop, as well as a tablet for casual leanback experies. However, that leads to a broader question of what custom silicon allows Google to do and what a premium Chromebook looks like two years from now. Chromebooks have found clear market success amid the pandemic and work from home.

As such, people are becoming very attuned to how the platform works. When it comes time for them to get a personal laptop, that familiarity might cause them to get something running Chrome OS. Some will go for a device that has a flashier build than the fleet-esque nature of the Chromebooks they’ve been using, while businesses might opt for something higher-end right out of the gate as adoption grows.

A premium Chrome OS device is no longer the oxymoron it was during the days of the first and second-generation Chromebook Pixel. Historically, Chrome OS has used $1,000+ devices to showcase new technologies. The 2015 Chromebook Pixel was one of the first laptops to adopt USB-C, while the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook has a 4K AMOLED screen with Ambient EQ adjustments.

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