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It's Official: Google Is Bailing on First-Party Tablets

By Evan Niu, CFA – Jun 20, 2019 at 7:00PM

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The Pixel Slate won't be missed.

Tablets have never been Android or Chrome's strong suit, and Alphabet (GOOG 2.51%) (GOOGL 2.42%) subsidiary Google has confirmed today that it is ditching the form factor. The news comes less than a year after the company unveiled the Pixel Slate, its first Chrome OS tablet that Google ambitiously thought could compete with Apple's iPad Pro and Microsoft's Surface Pro as a laptop replacement. That's a tall order to fill, particularly when pricing approached $2,000 when including the keyboard and stylus.

The Pixel Slate received relentlessly mediocre reviews through no fault of its high-end hardware spec sheet; the device's flaws all center around the software trying to do too much and not doing anything particularly well.

Pixel Slate on a white background next to a stylus

Farewell, Pixel Slate. Image source: Google.

Sticking with laptops, bailing on tablets

Business Insider reports that Google has abandoned two unreleased tablets that it was working on, both of which were going to be smaller than the 12.3-inch Slate and were set to ship later this year. The search giant wasn't satisfied with the quality assurance testing of the tablets, according to the report.

BI had previously reported rumors that Google was pulling back on both tablet and laptop hardware, but that no longer seems to be the case, because Google says it is still pushing forward with its Pixelbook laptops, which also run Chrome OS. The company will still support existing Slate customers and the software platforms themselves, as third-party manufacturers will still continue to bring Android and Chrome tablets to market.

"Chrome OS has grown in popularity across a broad range of form factors and we'll continue to work with our ecosystem of partners on laptops and tablets," a Google spokesperson told the outlet. "For Google's first-party hardware efforts, we'll be focusing on Chrome OS laptops and will continue to support Pixel Slate."

Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh also confirmed the news on social media.

Better hardware opportunities elsewhere

Given Google's muted impact on the tablet market thus far, it bailing on tablets comes as little surprise. There are far better hardware opportunities for the company to pursue, such as midrange smartphones and smart speakers.

The Pixel 3a was unveiled last month with a starting price of just $399, garnering critical praise mostly from the strong value proposition offered at that midrange price. The company's smart-home portfolio is gaining enough traction that Google is now regrouping under the Google Nest brand while expanding the lineup with a new and larger Nest Hub Max. Google Home speakers easily give a run for its money in the smart speaker race, even overtaking the e-commerce giant in Europe, according to IDC's Francisco Jeronimo.

It makes far more sense for Google to focus its efforts in areas where it is already gaining traction and building momentum. The Pixel Slate won't be missed.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of AMZN and AAPL. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), AMZN, AAPL, and MSFT. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on AAPL and short January 2020 $155 calls on AAPL. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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