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Pixel C team fields Reddit’s questions, fails to answer the important ones

Some of the key members of the Pixel C team took to Reddit for an AMA session. Unfortunately, we didn't get the answers we were hoping for.

Published onDecember 10, 2015

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Some of the key members of the Pixel C team took to Reddit for an AMA session. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the answers we were hoping for.

The AMA comes on the heels of the launch of the Pixel C, which became available on the Google Store on Tuesday, for $499.

The first batch of Pixel C reviews praise the excellent construction and design of the device, but note serious software problems (including hard to excuse glitches related to touchscreen responsivity and keyboard connection) and a lack of features and apps that take advantage of the Pixel C’s 10.2-inch display.

Google Pixel C hands-on and first look

Given these issues, redditors understandably wanted to know when they could expect the much needed software improvements. The Pixel C team doing the AMA, which included the head of Android and Chrome OS Hiroshi Lockheimer and the tablet’s product manager, offered a few details, but failed to offer convincing answers to the questions that matter.

Puneet Kumar, Software Director for Pixel C, said that the device will be updated on “on regular cadence lining up with the monthly security updates for Android.” But Kumar didn’t clarify whether these updates would deliver new features or they would be strictly bug-fixing and security patches.

Glen Murphy, Director of UX for Android and Chrome, did appear to hint that an update bringing multiwindow and other features designed for large screens would come sooner, rather than later:

“We’re working hard on a range of enhancements for Android in this form-factor – there are many things, like multiwindow, that we’ve been spending a lot of time on – hopefully we can share more about this soon.”
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Andrew Bowers & Wilkins, Director for Consumer Hardware at Google, with the Pixel C

In reply to a question about features that were originally planned to launch with the Pixel C (i.e.: split screen multiwindow), Andrew Bowers & Wilkins, Director for Consumer Hardware said that:

“We’re working on lots of things right now for N that, of course, we wish we had, you know, yesterday. But we’d spoil the surprise of N if we shared all of them. Split screen is in the works!”

Is this a hint that split screen will arrive before Android N? Your guess is our good as ours.

Another hard question that Googlers deflected was “Why was pixel hardware released before the software was ready?” from user connectwithraj. And here’s the (non)answer:

“Android continues to get better and better on tablets – we think the Pixel-C is the best yet; that said – we know there are lots of things left to do, and are looking forward to releasing them when they’re awesome and ready.”

The team also explained that the “C” in Pixel C stands for “convertible,” that the Pixel program emerged from a desire to promote hardware advancements like better touchpads and USB Type-C, and that “Ok, Google” support and DisplayPort support over Type-C are coming in a future update.

It’s not really fair to blame the people who did the AMA for Google’s failure to coordinate its hardware and software releases, and worse, the failure to offer a plausible answer to the question “why should I buy a Pixel C.” Like other Google products before it, the Pixel C appears to be a beta device that has been purposely released in incomplete form, in the hope that users will pick it up anyway.

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The problem is the Pixel C is $500, and that’s a lot to pay for a tablet that delivers in only one of the three big components of user experience: hardware, software, and ecosystem. Sure, Android N may make the Pixel C great, but 10 months is a very long time to wait.

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