Pixel C AMA Summary: Google Touts Hardware, Excuses Software
The Pixel C is an ambitious attempt by Google to take on the likes of the productivity oriented tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Apple iPad Pro. To promote the newly available device and to answer questions of the masses regarding the $499 Android tablet, the team behind the Pixel C took to Reddit for a classic AMA session with the forum users.
Here are some of the new things we learnt from the AMA:
- The “C” in the Pixel C stands for “Convertible” (Source)
- Pixel lineup is Google-designed hardware, while Nexus is hardware that Google works closely with partners to design (Source)
- The Pixel C tablet draws inspiration from the Chromebook Pixel for its design. A lot of the design choices are shared across the family (Source )
- There are no plans for a Pixel phone, as the Nexus devices are intended to fit that role (Source)
- USB Type C is set to become the way forward for all Google products, and even for the industry as a whole (Source)
- The team behind the Pixel C hardware works across several projects, including Nexus development (Source)
- Split screen / Multi Window is in the works for Android N (Source)
- The Pixel C is a step towards achieving better large screen support within the Android ecosystem (Source)
- The Pixel C is expected to be updated on a regular cadence lining up with the monthly security updates for Android. This is different than what was announced at the Google keynote, where it was mentioned that the Pixel C will be updated with software updates every six weeks “like other Pixel devices”. The information given out in the AMA is in contrast to the keynote promise, making the Pixel C be comparable with other Nexus tablets instead of with Chrome OS-based Pixel devices (Source)
- The USB Type C port on the Pixel C supports USB 3.1 Host & Client mode, USB PD fast charging for 24W and USB Debug Accessory (Source)
- DisplayPort support over Type C is being worked on, but no release date is available as of yet (Source)
- The Pixel C should support passive styluses. The team, however, decided to focus more on the keyboard rather than an active stylus (Source)
- The Pixel C is supported on AOSP like other Nexus devices, and the bootloader can be unlocked to enable booting an alternate OS (Source)
- The Pixel C does not support Chromebook style recovery via USB (Source)
- The firmware used is Coreboot, which is open source (Source)
- Double tap to wake feature is absent on the Pixel C stock software as the team wanted to optimize sleep battery life. The tablet does however, wake when you open the keyboard (Source)
- Always-on “Ok Google” support will be added in a future update (Source)
Like with all other popular AMA’s, questions that poured in were far too numerous than what a small group of people can handle. As a result, a few questions remained unanswered, or were answered unsatisfactorily
- Why was the Pixel C hardware released before the software was ready?
Most of the criticism that has been coming for the Pixel C stems from the fact that Android as an OS has nothing to offer on the productivity end of things. Tablets have been treated like a neglected stepchild by the OS in its recent updates. In most cases, the advantages of a bigger screen, that is more screen real estate to display meaningful content, are lost by blowing up a UI designed for smaller screen sizes.
The team mentioned that it is a case of chicken-egg problem, and that the presence of hardware is a key driver in solving the problem of absence of quality tablet apps. But, reference devices for tablets have existed since quite some time, given to the public under the Nexus moniker itself. We still do not see much tabletization of the OS, so it is doubtful if the presence of one high end 10” tablet will change too much on its own, without any other external help from Google.
- The Pixel C is referred to as a convertible. Most of the images of the device supplied by Google have the tablet flanked by its keyboard accessory. One does need to wonder why it costs $150 for an accessory to actually take advantage of any of the boasted “productivity” of the tablet? Going solely by what you just get out of the box, the Pixel C is a regular 10” tablet which costs $499. There is no productivity or even convertibility orientation to it without having users to spend an additional $150 for it.
- The Nexus 7 was successful as a tablet thanks a lot to its affordable price range. This made it easier for a lot of smaller developers to pick up the device for reference when designing their apps. With the Pixel C, this advantage is lost unless the developer is willing to purchase what is a high-end tablet. Also, due to its price, consumer attention in terms of pure volume will be affected. This really reduces the incentive for a smaller developer to develop apps that can provide a richer experience on a larger display. The Pixel C team has promised to get better with regards running phone-scale apps on the tablet, but it is easier said than done.
- Users questioned on how Google intended to tackle the competition from Surface Pro tablets (which are expensive but are x86 and less restrictive in that regard) in a business or school environment. The team sidestepped this part of the question with a PR-like response.
- When asked “How are you guys thinking about your distribution strategy?”, the team replied with “With gusto :)”. (Source)
Sarcasm and jokes aside, we wished there was a genuine answer to this question.
- When the team commented on the app support being a chicken-egg problem, a user commented: “Have you guys considered also working with teams internal to Google, such as the YouTube, Play Store, and Hangouts teams? Wouldn’t the-company-supporting-the-platform setting the tone also be a key driver?”. This is a very valid argument. This just emphasizes the fact that Google did indeed have a way to set a starting point on how large tablet interfaces should look and interact. With them choosing not to do this with their own suite of apps does not set a very good example.
- People asked what makes the Pixel C a competitor compared to a regular Windows laptop when viewed from eyes of someone looking to buy a $600 laptop. The team replied that the Pixel C runs Android and has the backing of its massive ecosystem behind it. In my opinion, this does not make the Pixel C a “competitor”, it just makes it a second option as there is no real competitive edge in running Android as it currently is against running Windows when looked at a desktop perspective.
- Why is there no LTE model for the Pixel C. The team did not answer this.
The Q&A session was still a success as there were not too many PR style responses. We got to learn something new about the Pixel C, and for this, we’d like to thank the team for taking time out and enlightening us.
What are your thoughts on the recently concluded Q&A session on the Pixel C?
Are you satisfied with the answers and approach taken by Google with regards to various current problems? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!