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The ambitious Android tablet option Google tossed away

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To say that Android tablets have been a letdown might be the understatement of the century.

When you step back and think about it, the fact that Android tablets are such an underemphasized afterthought is almost shocking. Android is the world’s most popular operating system, after all — by a pretty hefty margin. It’s easy to forget sometimes, but more humans carry Android-powered smartphones than any other type of device in the universe.

And yet, for all of those advantages, Google has year after year failed to turn Android tablets into a compelling, sought-after type of technology that’s more than a mere blip on the mobile-tech radar. It’s reached the point where I flat-out tell folks to stay away from Android tablets and consider convertible Chromebooks instead — ’cause unlike the typical Android tablet, any Chromebook you buy will actually get updates. It’ll be supported with the latest privacy, security, and performance standards for years after its purchase. And it’ll provide a truly great all-around experience.

Plain and simple, it’ll bring all the qualities you want from an Android tablet into a more productivity-minded, work-friendly setup — one with plenty of perks and without all the standard Android tablet disadvantages.

Here’s what’s fascinating, though: Android tablets didn’t have to be this way. Nearly 12 years ago, Google bought a buzzworthy software startup that was doing incredibly interesting things with interface design. The company had all sorts of wild ideas about the future of large-screen touch interaction, and Google seemed destined to bring those concepts into the land of Android.

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