Android On Tablets
by Frank McPherson Saturday, December 30, 2017

Google has stopped selling the Pixel C, which is not too surprising, the writing has been on the wall for some time.

I've personally used Android for tablets for pretty much for as long as there has been Android for tablets, and I've personally not considered it to be any worse than iOS on tablets (read iPad). 

All this being said, I currently own a Nexus 9, which is now long in the tooth. I was not persuaded to replace the Nexus 9 with the Pixel C, now demised, due to price, more than anything.

Two things, however, have moved my primary tablet usage from Android to iOS/iPad. First off, due to a need at work for a device running a current version of iOS, I bought a refurbed iPad Mini 4 and frankly find it to be the best piece of tablet hardware available. Actually, prior to iOS 11, I would say that Android is the best tablet OS while iPad is the best tablet hardware.

This year I bought the iPad Pro 10.5 and Apple Pencil, which for me is the ultimate work tool. The Apple Pencil is the second reason why I moved from Android tablets to the iPad.

One area where Google failed with tablets, in my opinion, is in the lack of stylus support. Despite what Steve Jobs, among others, may have said, it turns out a stylus/active pen is a very useful accessory for tablets. Please note there is an important difference between a stylus as an accessory, as is the case for the Pro models of the iPad, and requiring a stylus to use a device, as was the case for all Personal Digital Assistants and smartphones prior to the iPhone.

I am a long user of styli as mobile device accessories while fully recognizing the importance of the touch user interface introduced by Apple.

I find it interesting that the new Pixelbook has support for an active pen, however because the Chromebook Pixel will not be used primarily in "tablet" mode, I doubt many people will buy the Pixelbook Pen for the limited functionality it provides.

Despite the predictable hand wringing that will go on about Android and tablets, I personally think the lack of a tablet from Google speaks more about tablets in general and less about Android. 

Keep in mind, iPad sales were dropping until this year when Apple dropped the price significantly. I suspect the lower priced iPads sold very well this holiday season. At the previous high prices, iPads were bought either by people with plenty of cash or who saw a real use for them that justified the expense. At lower prices, the iPad moves more to "why not" purchases, and that alone might spure the iPad toward fulfilling the dream of it replacing notebook computers.

With the flagship brand having difficulty selling its own tablet, is there really a market for tablets? Most likely not, particularly when you throw large screen smartphones into the mix. 

So, at this point, I don't expect Google to ever release another tablet. Given the work they have been doing in combining Chrome OS and Android, I think any device with a 7-inch screen or larger will run Chrome OS. The question is, will Google simply stand pat with a $650 phone and a $999 laptop, or do they need another in-between priced, larger screen device? 

If Google releases another Pixel brand product, I think it most likely to be be a 2-in-1 detachable akin to the Microsoft Surface Pro. Two reasons make this the likely approach, in my opinion.

First despite how nice it is, I doubt Google is going to sell a lot of Pixelbooks, for nothing more than Google cannot overcome the stigma of ChromeOS on an expensive notebook. People are programmed into thinking ChromeOS is not a full operating system, and seem to think that a $1000 notebook must have a full operating system akin to Windows 10.

Second, a detachable 2-in-1 enables Google to kill two birds with one stone. A detachable provides a real tablet (in my opinion fold behinds are not real tablets) when you don't use a keyboard, and such a product could be priced from $600 to $800 to provide a lower price alternative to the Pixelbook. 

The tell for all this will be Google I/O 2018. If Google does not announce something to replace the Pixel C then, I doubt they will ever release a Pixel slate/tablet, which means they cede that particular niche of hardware to other companies.