Google’s Pixelbook could soon have a successor. The $999 take on the Chromebook was the company’s first foray into the high-end laptop market, and it fell somewhere between a portable computer and tablet, combining a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with Pixelbook Pen support. It’s nifty, but didn’t seem to take off, coming across as a bit of a mixed-bag device without a clear targeted consumer. With its next Pixelbook, Google reportedly has plans to change that.
Without providing a clear timeline, the company hinted that it’s working on a improved version of the Pixelbook at the Cloud Next 2019 conference in San Francisco, 9to5Google reports. The upcoming device is said to focus on the enterprise consumer who also travels.
“[It will] help the employees that are constantly on the go,” said Steve Jacobs, Pixelbook Group product chief. “[The employees] working outside of their desk…remotely at least part of the time.”
Targeting a more specific consumer demographic will be the bare minimum it needs if the Pixelbook is going to compete with the MacBook, which laptop-using employees have been getting used to working on since 2006. In addition, it will also need to fix three under-the-hood shortcomings that also limited the 2018 Pixelbook’s appeal.
A True PixelBook Pro?
If Google truly wants to take the Pixelbook to the professional market, it will need a “Pro”-grade laptop. Currently, Google offers a $1,650 variant of the Pixelbook that runs a Core i7 processor-7Y75. This chip architecture is already three years old, and has been tested as showing considerably lower clock speed than Intel’s U-series.
Upgrading its processor, providing a screen that’s somewhere over the 14-inch mark, and making the entire chassis slightly larger and thicker would make it a much more temping option for video editors, photographers, and creatives, i.e., many of the professions that need a semi-beefy laptop on the go.
It might sound counter intuitive but portability and thinness are not the be-all-end-all of a work laptop, even one that you primarily want to use on the go. At the end of the day, lugging around a fraction of a pound less or more is a secondary concern to internals that can run your work programs reliably and with ease.
Better Operating System
Chrome OS, the Pixelbook’s operating system, is one of the laptop’s biggest weaknesses. The software allows users to run Android apps on the laptop, but often stutters when optimizing a mobile app for laptop viewing. Even opening something as basic as the Spotify app can lead to software hiccups, noted The Verge’s Dieter Bohn.
“You still run into head-slappingly silly moments like switching to tablet mode and finding out that the Spotify app is a tiny little rectangle floating in the middle of a vast, black expanse,” he said. “Users shouldn’t have to think about whether apps are using the right APIs for window sizing.”
Optimizing the myriad of Android apps so that they function on a larger display, seamlessly, is no easy feat. The solution may lie in Google’s mysterious new operating system, Fuchsia. Glimpses of the experimental OS have indicated it will run both Android and Chrome OS apps without any snafus.
Fuchsia was first demonstrated during the 2014 Google I/O conference, and reports state that it is still in its developmental phase. But with I/O kicking off in May 7, we should expect to hear more about the platform and how it could work its way into future products, like the Pixelbook.
Much Better Battery
Finally, the Pixelbook needs a better gas tank. Laptop Magazine compared its battery life with four other popular laptops and the Pixelbook placed dead last at 7 hours and 43 minutes, not even enough to get you through a single work day.
The enterprise demographic in particular will also need to run battery intensive programs, like 3D modeling software or video editing tools. If a user isn’t around a power outlet, trying to do serious work on the Pixelbook runs a pretty high risk of having your laptop die in the middle of a project.
Google needs to strike a balance between delivering “Pro”-level power, making the new Pixelbook portable, while also improving the lackluster battery. But it’s not all negatives — people love the Pixelbook’s design, for example. The potential for a great follow-up is there. Google simply needs to improve on these three key metrics to mount a more formable challenge to its competitors.