One of Android's original founders, Rich Miner, is working on Android tablets, a fact that was recently revealed in a ComputerWorld report digging into Google's history with tablets. Miner's LinkedIn page appears to confirm it, listing his current title as "CTO Android Tablets," and says he's been in that role since March, 2021. Google told The Verge in an email that his specific role is "leading software development for Android for large screens ”in the“ Platforms and Ecosystems team. ”
Given that someone pivotal to Android's history is now working on tablets, and some job listings Google has posted, it seems like the company may be doing something interesting with Android beyond phones and foldables. Miner worked on Android when it was being built by a company called Android, Inc., which would later go on to be acquired by Google. He's done a lot of things in the time since (including helping Google figure out which startups to invest in), but it seems like now he's back working on Android, with an eye towards making it better for tablets.
It's not just Miner's role that shows Google has a renewed focus on larger-screen devices. The upcoming Android 12L update, which is currently in beta, is focused on improving the tablet and foldable experience. A job listing for a “Senior Engineering Manager, Android Tablet App Experience” spotted by 9to5Google also says that Google believes "the future of computing is shifting towards more powerful and capable tablets."
That's a bit of an about-face for Google - in 2019, the company said that its hardware team was done working on tablets, and would be fully focusing on laptops. While Google's hardware lead said that the “Android & Chrome OS teams are 100% committed to the long-run on working with our partners on tablets,” in the wake of the not-so-great Pixel Slate (which used Chrome OS instead of Android) it was hard to feel excited about the future for Google-powered tablets.
Now, with the hires and rumors that Google's working on its own foldable Pixel phone (which could basically end up being a phone that turns into a tablet), it definitely seems like the company is planning on returning to the tablet space in some way. Google said it did not have a comment about whether it had reconsidered working on its own tablets.
but Miner himself has been making some interesting comments on Twitter. He retweeted ComputerWorld's article with the comment “Definitely a sad story, but there is an indication of hope at the end. What is that [Rich Miner] guy up to ... ”He also replied to a comment from Mishaal Rahman, saying that Android 12L, an upcoming update focused on larger screen devices, is a "great start."
While the iPad is the main focus of conversation around tablets, Apple is not completely dominating the market. According to market research firm IDC, Apple was the top tablet seller in the third quarter of 2021, with around a 34 percent share of the market. But that leaves plenty of room for competitors like Samsung (the second largest with around 18 percent market share in Q3 2021), Amazon, and more. While it's very possible Google is just planning to focus on its relationship with tablet OEMs, taking another crack at a Pixel tablet would not be unwelcome - especially to people with fond memories of the Nexus 7.
Update January 28th, 7:16 PM ET: Added information from Google about Miner's role.