Pixel C Reportedly Began as a Chrome OS Tablet, 18 Months Ago

December 10, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

The Pixel C, the tablet built by the Pixel team that finally went on sale this week. The Pixel team had an AMA on Reddit yesterday and answered a number of questions on the new product, however today’s report is something no one really knew about. According to a new report. The Pixel C actually started out as a Chrome OS device, or a Chrome OS Tablet. That actually makes a whole lot of sense, you see the Pixel team has only made Chrome OS devices, namely the two Chromebook Pixels. While Nexus has always been the brand for Android devices from Google. The Pixel C popped up in the Chrome open source repository quite a while ago, which shows that the team had been working on this device for at least 18 months, and the majority of that was likely the software. We reported on a few rumors this year that Google was working on a Chrome OS tablet, and indeed they were. The Pixel C was that tablet. However there were some issues with Chrome OS on the tablet.

The team was working on Project Athena, which was to make Chrome OS a bit more tablet friendly. Including a task switcher or window switcher that would remind you a lot of Android. The Project started in July 2014 and was then cancelled in December 2014. There were some touch screen issues, but we’re unsure if that was the reason the project was indeed cancelled.

Next up, building an Android and Chrome OS Hybrid. Seeing as the Pixel C doesn’t have a mouse, it can’t really run Chrome OS as it stands today. That’s why Project Athena was started, to make Chrome OS better for tablets. The device tree for the Pixel C, the board was Ryu, started to get some Android code back in March 2015. While the project was actually started in February 2015. The idea here was to dual-boot Android and Chrome OS together. But that was eventually scrapped in July 2015, and the team went onto option C, which was the Android tablet we know today.

In September of this year, Google announced the Pixel C at their product event where the Nexus 5X and 6P were also announced. It was announced as a tablet actually built by Google and not a partner. With the previous dual-boot project being cancelled just two months before, that didn’t leave a whole lot of time for Google to get Android up and running on the Pixel C and really take advantage of that form factor, especially with that keyboard. There’s no split screen either (which was available in some of the Android M developer previews over the summer) and that’s also a downer for the Pixel C.

This whole report explains exactly why the Pixel C exists and why it was a bit confusing when it was announced. It was going to be a Chrome device, but ultimately turned into an Android tablet built by the Pixel team.