Google isn't killing off its own Chromebooks after all

Google isn’t finished making laptops.

Earlier this week, reports surfaced noting that Google hardware boss Rick Osterloh had said in a recent meeting with journalists at Mobile World Congress — an annual mobile industry conference held in Barcelona — that the search giant was pumping the brakes on its line of “Pixel”-branded Chromebooks. That led to some speculation that the company will stop producing laptops in general.

Now, though, Osterloh has clarified that’s not the case. “Hey all, Google’s own Chromebooks aren’t ‘dead’ as has been reported,” Osterloh wrote in a tweet on Wednesday. “They will live on, we just have *no plans to share at this time.*”

Business Insider attended the meeting in question, and to be fair, Osterloh’s wording was vague enough to make any miscommunication understandable.

But first, some context: Last fall, both Android Police and 9to5Google reported that Google was planning its own “Pixel 3” laptop. This is said to be a follow-up to its two previous Chromebook Pixel notebooks — which Google has sold as a sort of idealised Chrome OS device at the very top of the market —  and one of the first devices to run a new Google operating system, codenamed “Andromeda,” that will merge bits of Android and Chrome OS together. It was also reported to arrive in Q3 of this year. Google has not commented on any of this thus far.

Chromebook pixel googleQuartz/GoogleThe Chromebook Pixel.

During the meeting, Osterloh was asked if Google would continue making laptops, then if “there would be no Pixel 3 coming.” He responded by saying “no, not that we’re discussing.” When pressed to clarify, Osterloh said, “Who knows what the future might hold? Nothing to announce today.”

Osterloh was then asked if Google was backing out of the laptop market. “We have none available now,” he said, a reference to the fact that the Chromebook Pixel has been out of stock since last year. After noting how Google has a number of Chrome OS devices available today through third-party partners, he said, “There’s no Google-branded products that we’re talking about now. That doesn’t mean we won’t do one ever again. But, like, no plans right now.”

Osterloh then reiterated that Chrome OS is a “huge initiative” in the company, and noted its market share gains in the US and UK, but then said, “It’s clearly a big thing for the company, but no, no plans for us with laptops, Google-branded [laptops].”

Samsung Chromebook Pro 2Business Insider/Jeff DunnThe Samsung Chromebook Pro.

Taken together, Osterloh’s comments make it hard to tell if he was confirming a temporary exit from the laptop business, or just trying to distance himself from a rumoured device that Google has yet to confirm or deny, but may announce in the future.

With Osterloh’s tweet on Wednesday, though, we seem to be right back where we started. Google probably has its “own” laptop coming at some point, but the company is keeping its cards close to its vest when it comes to what its exact plans are. 

Google confirmed as much in an email, saying that Osterloh’s “no plans” comments were not meant to imply that Google-made Chromebooks will no longer exist, but that he “simply misspoke.”

Whether or not those future laptops will use the “Pixel” name — which is now used with the company’s flagship phone — is less clear. Google declined to comment on that, only reiterating that it has nothing to share at this time.

For what it’s worth, Osterloh was asked about Google’s Pixel branding strategy at MWC, and didn’t seem to commit either way. “The laptops called Pixel were well received by people who used them, but it was very small-scale, so not a lot of people frankly were aware of that name,” he said. “I think a lot more people are aware of it with the phone. We love the name, we intend to continue to use it. I’m not sure exactly in what areas. But certainly since we have laptops in market with that name, that will continue. And we have the phone business for sure.”

Whatever the case, it is clear that Google is trying to push Chromebooks further outside of the education sector in which they’re most popular today. The company recently helped Samsung launch the Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro, two higher-end Chromebooks that run Android apps — albeit in a buggy beta form. It plans to push that Android app initiative on every new Chromebook from now on. And a recent report from The Verge noted that it appears to be helping produce Chrome OS-optimised chipsets for other device manufacturers.

Rob Price contributed to this report.

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