Google's budget-minded Pixel Slate is still noticeably absent nearly three months from its promised launch and almost six since its unveiling at last year's Made by Google event, despite expectations of increased competition in the Chrome OS tablet category.
Expected and listed to sell for just $599 as of its October announcement, the gadget was anticipated to help set the stage for future devices running Google's laptop OS in a tablet format. In particular, the search giant's apparent aim was to ensure that a good model was in place for other companies moving into the space to follow in building out their own designs at a lower price bracket.
Packed with a 12.3-inch Molecular Display at a resolution of 3,000 x 2,000 with 293 ppi, in an all-metal body with premium-tuned dual-forward firing speakers, the comparatively low-end Google Pixel Slate was expected to be a true showcase of Chrome OS possibility. Its sleek 1.6lb design was meant to be driven by an eighth-gen Intel Celeron processor backed by 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 32GB storage.
All of that was supposed to be coupled with the same 12-hour rated battery life, fingerprint scanner, and other premium features found in its more expensive counterparts. But none of that has happened. The budget-minded Pixel Slate is still listed as "Out of stock" when added to a cart via the official site and Google's response to queries has been decidedly vague, leading to plenty of speculation about the missing hardware.
Speculation following big cuts to Google's hardware division
The search giant has reportedly told reviewers immediately following the launch of other Pixel Slate configurations that they would need a month. That's now shifted to statements claiming it will still be "some time" before they become available. It also has had nothing to add with regard to the also absent, slightly more expensive variant that ships with double the usual memory and storage.
Taken alongside harsh criticisms of Google's budget Chrome OS tablet and reports about cuts being made to Google's hardware division, it's easy to see where speculation is stemming from.
Google's cheapest Pixel Slate has, where reviews have been made possible, faced critiques effectively pointing out that it simply isn't worth the cost compared to its siblings.
That fact that made even more potent with consideration for more capable devices such as HP's Chromebook x2 and equally capable devices such as Samsung's Chromebook Plus or Chromebook Pro that are already readily available. Both of those devices offer comparable features and a price, with accessories included that cost extra from Google. Each also has either a similar level of performance or better and the same or a lower price point -- representing some of the best available hardware on the platform.
The competition is on ...with or without Google
Despite Google's obvious absence from the mid-range budget category for Chrome OS tablets, that segment of the market has grown and is expected to continue growing. Most likely spurred by improvements in the OS itself that are slowly beginning to dispense with caveats that previously plagued the platform, OEMs have not only begun to release their own alternatives. That growth has mostly taken place in the education sector but new tablets are increasingly being noted in the Chromium Gerrit code repository too.
Upcoming devices are currently expected to come with either MediaTek or Qualcomm chipsets, driven to comparable levels of performance or better than the budget-friendly Pixel Slate. They're also predicted to pack features at a price point that will further those above-mentioned devices in effectively leaving Google's hardware behind.
For instance, both Qualcomm and MediaTek gadgets are expected to support mobile data connectivity, on top of the traditional Wi-Fi supported by Pixel Slate. Each is also predicted to include a screen that falls just short of the resolution but comes close enough that the average consumer won't notice a huge difference.
On the MediaTek side, the expected tablets will arrive in either a 10- or 8-inch form factor with support suspected for wireless charging. For Qualcomm, the gadgets will undoubtedly go above and beyond in terms of running Android apps due to the manufacturer's long history with that other OS as the de facto chipmaker.
Regardless of whether those devices live up to the hype, if the trend continues and the Celeron-powered Pixel Slate doesn't appear soon, Google may risk being left completely behind on its own platform.