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Even after the Pixel 8 and Fold leaks, I still think the most promising product in Google’s roadmap is the Pixel Tablet. The company, however, is sure taking its time launching it.
Google gave a sneak peek of the Pixel Tablet on May 11, 2022. The current thinking is that we’ll learn a ship date at the next Google I/O conference, on May 10.
In recent years, the Pixel team has taken to previewing/teasing key products ahead of time:
- A week of Pixel 4 leaks in June 2019 resulted in Google confirming the design on Twitter. This was followed by a blog post a month later detailing Face Unlock, Soli, and Motion Sense before the October launch.
- In August 2020, the Pixel 4a launch included a tease of the Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5. Google shared that those phones would feature 5G connectivity and start at $499.
- Things went into overdrive in 2021 with the Pixel 6 preview, seemingly out of nowhere, at the start of August via Twitter, blog posts, and interviews. Google shared the new design, display specs, Tensor chip and its advantages, and key camera details.
- Google found a way to take it a step further at I/O 2022 by previewing a great deal of hardware roadmap for the year. Besides the Pixel Tablet, there was the Pixel 7 series and Pixel Watch. That was on top of announcing the Pixel 6a and Pixel Buds Pro.
This strategy is undoubtedly borne out of getting ahead of leaks and wanting to control the narrative behind key products. With all the phones (and the watch) mentioned above, the timespan between preview and launch could be measured in a handful of months.
The tablet is looking at a 364-day gap, if not longer depending on when retail availability is actually happening. This wait is so long that Google had to give an update at the fall hardware event because it would not have had another expected/scheduled opportunity until I/O 2023. If Google maintained radio silence from the original tease to launch, the optics would have been quite bad.
Hardware teases, especially in the case of phones, also serve the role of dissuading buyers of competing products until Google has a chance to announce its version. In the case of the Pixel Tablet, Google might have successfully put off prospective customers making Samsung or iPad purchases, as tablet purchases are not as crucial as those of phones. Through that lens, Google succeeded with its year-long preview, and maybe that is enough to vindicate the strategy.
However, this one-year wait is so long that it cannot have been the original plan. When we reported that Google was working on a detachable Nest Hub in March of last year, it was associated with a 2022 date. (We did hear after the fact that Google decided to move from the original Tensor to G2.)
One possible justification for the delay is that the Pixel Tablet is essentially two product categories in one. There’s of course the Android tablet that all of Google has been working to better support for the benefit of the entire ecosystem so that the form factor is not left to be dominated by Apple.
The other half is the smart home component, which I’ve said before is how Google will get most people to try an Android tablet again. Smart displays are a proven gadget that have their dedicated utility. The Pixel Tablet will hopefully offer the best Assistant Smart Display experience ever made. At the very least, it will be more touch-responsive and powerful, compute-wise, than any existing Nest Hub. But beyond that, the Android nature will hopefully allow for faster Google Home development.
Looking at the relative lack of Nest Hub development and feature additions over the past year – where’s the redesign? – it does seem that Google is making the Pixel Tablet the future of the Smart Display. (We’re aware of Google working on new Assistant speakers, but not displays.) It comes as Amazon’s commitment to Alexa has slowed, while Apple is rumored to be making a HomePod with a screen.
Smart displays and speakers are currently affordable devices with low-end components. Apple’s rumored entry and Google’s latest iteration to the space each signal that these devices might need more powerful chips in order to evolve and continue.
Nothing less than the future of the Nest Hub and whether Android can offer a meaningful competition to the iPad is at stake with the Pixel Tablet. Google better land the launch after a year.
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