Google’s made a lot of tablets, starting with the Nexus 7 back in 2012. But you might not know it, since the company has consistently failed to capitalize on tablet platforms, starting with Android and continuing with Chrome OS. This weekend the Pixel Slate, once Google’s top-of-the-line machine, disappeared from its official web store. It’s probably never coming back.
Previously the tablet had been marked “out of stock” for weeks, but now the listing is completely gone. It’s not surprising: Google hasn’t been great at selling high-end computer hardware either, which is why the Pixelbook convertible hasn’t been updated after the introduction of the more price-conscious Pixelbook Go. But the loss of the Slate is particularly jarring to Google software fans like me. Its high-end, Intel-powered internals combined with a great build quality could have made it a competitor to the iPad Pro.
Chrome OS’s lack of flexibility with local programs, lackluster touch interface, and poor integration with touch-friendly applications doomed it. The price, starting at $600 for a rather dinky Celeron model, surely didn’t help. It’s a story we’ve heard before—high-end Android powered tablets sold poorly, too, from the Nexus 10 to the Nexus 9 to the almost-brilliant Pixel C. Half-baked tablet software couldn’t hold a candle to the iPad, and consumers weren’t willing to pay the premium, despite low-cost Android tablets from Amazon and Samsung flying off the shelves.
Hell, I love my Pixel Slate, but even I wasn’t willing to spend $600 on it. I picked mine up in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fire sale from Best Buy. I’ve watched Google make steady improvements to the touch interface on Chrome, but even now, I reach for the smaller and more versatile Chromebook Duet before I dust off the Slate.
While Google’s phones are steadily improving with the 2020 Pixels, carving out niches in the low-cost and midrange spaces, the company seems uninteresting in manufacturing its own tablets and computers now. Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices are selling great thanks to a renewed interest in working and studying from home, but Google is content to let partners like Lenovo and Asus try their hands at tablet form factors.