Google unveils new Pixel C, its first company-built tablet

The business-friendly Android tablet will likely go up against Apple's iPad Pro, which also connects to a keyboard.

The several poses of the Pixel C. CNET

Google has unveiled a new tablet called the Pixel C, with hopes that the productivity-focused device can revive the sagging tablet market.

The Internet search giant unveiled the 10.2-inch Pixel C (the "C" stands for convertible) and its removable keyboard Tuesday at a press event in San Francisco. Like other devices in the Pixel line, the tablet is built entirely by Google. Devices in its Nexus line are made in collaboration with partner companies.

"We try to push the state of the art and push the next generation of computing forward," Sundar Pichai, Google's incoming CEO, said on stage. "And to do that, we build hardware ... so we can guide the ecosystem forward."

The metal-clad tablet, which runs on Google's Android operating software, uses an Nvidia Tegra X1 eight-core processor with 3 gigabytes of memory, Andrew Bowers, a Google product management director, said on stage. Bowers also noted that the magnetically connected, Bluetooth-enabled keyboard doubles as a stand, so users don't have to prop up the tablet on a book or pillow.

"We think the Pixel C's tablet and keyboard experience really unlocks new ways to both play and be productive on one device," Bowers said.

The announcement of the device, along with several other products, had been expected, according to a report Monday from Android Police, which cited an unnamed source.

The Pixel C will face an uphill battle in an increasingly crowded market. Apple's iPads, first released in 2010, are the industry's leaders. On top of that, Apple earlier this month unveiled the iPad Pro, a 12.9-inch device that will also target business customers and go on sale in November. The iPad Pro works with an Apple-made stylus and keyboard case. Other companies, such as Microsoft, are offering similar devices that function as both laptops and tablets.

Despite that healthy competition, the market for tablets has been in decline. Shipments of the devices are expected to drop 8 percent this year, according to market tracker IDC.

The Pixel C will go on sale "in time for the holidays," Bowers said, and cost $499 with 32 gigabytes of storage and $599 for 64 GB. The keyboard will cost $149. In comparison, the iPad Pro starts at $799, with the keyboard selling for $169. A Microsoft Surface 3 tablet starts at $499, with the base model including 64 GB storage, and a keyboard cover costs $130.

The Pixel C shows that Google, despite selling off its Motorola smartphone division to Lenovo, still wants to stay involved in mobile device manufacturing. The Mountain View, California-based company is better known for software and services, leaving the design and manufacturing side to its Android partners. Apple, meanwhile, has demonstrated the advantages of tightly linking hardware and software design teams with its successful and profitable smartphones and computers, and software powerhouse Microsoft also has been dabbling with hardware designs.

Google's first two Pixel-branded devices were high-end touchscreen laptops that, instead of using mainstream operating systems such as Microsoft Windows or Apple's OS X, used Google's simple, online-focused Chrome OS software.

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