Microsoft managed to breathe new life into the stagnant tablet market with the Surface, proving that tablets can be used for more than just playing games and watching videos, and now everyone else wants a piece of the action. This morning, Google launched the Pixel C, a laptop-tablet hybrid that was developed by its own hardware team, and the hardware is what’s receiving the most praise from critics. The software, on the other hand, is being described as the Pixel C’s biggest weakness thanks to Android’s limited productivity apps and features. All in all, most critics seem to agree that, without Android’s limitations, the Pixel C would be a great productivity tablet.
A funny thing happened on the way to inventing the future of touchscreen computing: everybody is botching it. Google is the latest company to try to rethink how we interact with computers, designing and manufacturing a tablet and keyboard combination itself for the very first time instead of leaning on a partner to do it. The result is the Pixel C, a beautiful Android tablet that’s just slightly bigger than the iPad Air 2. Google probably would never admit it, but putting its own hardware team in charge of this year’s Android tablet makes a statement: everybody else has been doing it wrong. That doesn’t just include Android tablets like the Nexus 9 or Samsung’s Tab series, but also Apple’s iPad Pro and even Microsoft’s Surface line. The iPad Pro is massive with a gangly keyboard and all the limitations of mobile software, and the Microsoft Surface has only recently begun to resolve its fundamental identity crisis between laptop and tablet. They’re good, but they’re over-engineered solutions to problems we’re only beginning to have. This tablet is the Pixel hardware team’s response. It’s a simple, well-considered, uncomplicated glimpse into what a tablet computer ought to be. “Get on the train,” it says, “this is the future.” Except, well: Google’s Android and developer relations teams never even got to the station.