When Google finally grabbed Stadia – the giant leap from the search giant to the gaming industry – it presented its next-gen streaming technology on a number of devices.
Former chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment and now Google vice president for Stages, Phil Harrison, the Game Developers Conference 2019 showed audiences and thousands of viewers on live stream how easy it would be to switch between playing on a Chromebook, Android smartphone, desktop pc and a tablet.
This impressive demo was the first time that Google's vision of the future of gaming, where almost any hardware can run AAA console games via cloud technology, went beyond words and vague teasers.
There was only one problem. Of those four devices – a Pixelbook, a Pixel 3 XL, a desktop PC with Stages in the Chrome browser and a Pixel Slate – three product categories continued to flourish. The fourth represents a product family that has been in free fall for years: the tablet.
The tablet market is on life support, with the most recent figures falling year after year. Tablets need a goal to stay relevant and Stages is the chance of a lifetime.
Unlike in the smartphone arena where Android dominates, Apple & # 39; s iPad series leads to the ailing tablet industry without real competition. This was no clearer than a few weeks ago when the Cupertino company introduced new iPads without any fanfare, knowing that despite its own declining sales, it will still be the best place.
Samsung and Huawei have pulled the second and third drives respectively. Although the two tech giants sometimes make premium tablets, they are more known for affordable middle tablets and even cheaper tablets for children. However, their combined market share of tablets is still less than that of Apple, which has more than one third of the entire sector in its grip.
The inequality between the success of Android on phones and the abject failure as a tablet platform is staggering. Those who have already bought an Android tablet do not seem willing to buy another tablet, while those who have never bought an Android tablet are less interested than ever in taking a dip – a worryingly horrible image painted by Android authority readers in an extensive survey last year.
Read more: Best Android tablets
Foldable phones such as the Galaxy Fold and Mate X can give the final push that Android tablets fall to their final, inevitable death. Of course we still have a long way to go before technology becomes mainstream.
Android tablets have failed, but there is still hope for a new iPad rival from the new Chrome OS tablet line.
Chrome OS tablets started early 2018 with an unfavorable start with the unveiling of the Chromebook Tab 10 – an Acer stylus designed for the education market. Business improved dramatically with HP's # 2; detachable laptop, but it was largely ignored by consumers.
That has all changed with the big revelation of the Google Pixel Slate, but for the wrong reasons.
The Pixel Slate was and still is an overpriced, underwhelming addition to Google's otherwise stellar Made by Google entourage.
To make matters worse, the Celeron version, which might have quietly retired, had to contend with unacceptable performance issues and further affected the Pixel Slate as another bad attempt at an iPad competitor (in this case, the iPad Pro).
Reports have since been published that jeopardize the tablet and laptop division, but there is still hope for Chrome OS tablets, even if Google no longer makes hardware. Silicon giants Qualcomm and MediaTek are said to be both preparing for a wave of Chrome OS tablets and laptops.
But if future Chrome OS tablets have to make some progress, they need something special to convince people to buy via the ubiquitous iPad. Enter Stages.
Although there are still many burning questions that still need to be answered, Stages is a phenomenal concept that the game streaming service could be what many players had hoped for.
Google says that Stages is able to deliver a gaming experience that is more powerful than any console, anytime, anywhere. Internet restrictions are of course applicable, but the idea is that you can stream up to 4K at 60 fps across multiple platforms with all the necessary process grunt of super powerful remote PCs.
Based on the GDC briefing from Google, Stadia could come to any device that supports the Chrome browser, but compatibility has been lost so far. Anyway, the Google demo on GDC suggests that Stadia will find a home on Chrome OS tablets such as the Pixel Slate.
Because Chrome tablets of all price ranges must be effectively removed via cloud technology, top-end console games can be conducted through Stages. In theory, a $ 99 tablet purchased for your children could perform Assassin & Creed Odyssey as well as a PS4.
This would make gaming an important selling point for Chrome OS tablets in all price ranges, giving them a head start on Apple's premium-or-nothing iPad range. Similarly, while Apple Arcade may have been a sort of curve ball, nothing suggested that Apple & # 39; s game plan suggested that the exclusive games being offered would be equivalent to AAA console games. And if you want to play mobile games on a Chrome OS tablet, you can thanks to the support for the Google Play Store and Android app.
Related: The best Android apps for Chromebooks that you can install now
Looking further at Apple, Chrome OS tablets with Stadia could handle the current king of portable gaming – the Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo & # 39; s home-handheld hybrid console has sold gangbusters and has a great game library. Nevertheless, the Switch is far behind in terms of performance and visual loyalty to other consoles, not to mention advanced PC & # 39; s.
Even if rumors heat up that an upgraded Switch model might be on the move, it is unlikely that the unprocessed processing capacity will match what Stages on a tablet can even offer at half the price. That is without even touching the 720p screen and the medium battery.
Unlike Switch-aping game telephones that depend on the Google Play Store game library, Stages also seems to plan to bring a number of AAA publishers on board. We have already dedicated Ubisoft and Bethesda to the service, the latter showing off Doom: Eternal at GDC. The sequel to the 2016 Doom reboot is also en route to Switch, albeit with expected downgrades like its predecessor. That will not be the case on Stages, which can apparently run the same game in 4K with HDR with 60 fps on each device.
The enormous reservation is the internet connection obligation of Stadia, which greatly limits the scope of the portable platform. This becomes less of a problem when 5G finally starts rolling out, but even then, the price of a 5G data plan in addition to the currently unknown costs of Stages could praise some potential buyers from the market.
Chrome OS tablets with Stages do have an asset in the gap over gaming devices, and that is Chrome OS itself – an agile, cloud-based desktop ecosystem for work, play and almost everything in between. Why take a switch and a laptop with you if you just pack a tablet and do everything on one device?
Google must develop its own game.
All this is based on better tablet hardware and Chrome OS is much more suitable for the form factor than Android in its current state. The market can become even more clouded if foldable phones inevitably fall in price, but Google & # 39; s terrible record of trying to turn Android into a workable tablet platform doesn't give me much confidence.
If Android becomes a viable phone-tablet hybrid OS – and there are at least some positive signs that are starting to show in the early Android Q-build with desktop mode, it can take a few more years before foldable phones become mainstream . Moreover, folding phones are always limited in terms of display size, with both a phone of reasonable size and a tablet that is large enough. Meanwhile, despite all the flaws, the Pixel Slate has a beautiful 12.3-inch Molecular Display that is ideal for playing top-end games.
What Chrome OS tablets need is a hook and Stages is the perfect bait. But if Google wants tablets to be the fourth pillar for its gaming aspirations, it must first develop its own game and help make the dream of a legitimate iPad rival a reality.