Google set the cat amongst the pigeons when it announced the Pixel C tablet in 2015. Launched alongside the two new Nexus handsets (Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P), this new tablet came Pixel branded, rather than Nexus branded. 

The previous Pixel product we saw was the Chromebook Pixel, Google's high-resolution Chromebook, which has since been dropped, having reached the end of its life. So what was Google playing at, launching some devices as Pixel and some as Nexus?

This question that first arose in 2015 is all the more pertinent in 2016, with talk that the Nexus programme has run its course and that the next smartphones that Google launches will carry the Pixel brand.

The Pixel devices are those that are end-to-end designed by Google. In the Pixel C we got an Android platform device, so it's important not to assume that Pixel is going to be a Chrome OS device, which the original Chromebook Pixel was.

The new Pixel C was described as a tablet that's been entirely built by Google, rather than one that's build by a partner. That was also the case with the Chromebook Pixel. So that's what Pixel is - it's a device that's completely Google.

For 2016, the rumour is that Google is moving to the Pixel brand for its new smartphones, called Pixel and Pixel XL, reflecting the two different sizes. This is far from confirmed, but it looks as though HTC's role in this new devices is simply as manufacturer.

The Nexus programme is much more familiar as it has given rise to a number of smartphones and tablets over the past few years, the most recent being the 2015 launch of the Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X.

These are device that are built in collaboration with partners. They have partner design and input, where Pixel is purely Google's doing. We've previously seen Nexus devices from Samsung, Asus, HTC, LG and Huawei.

With Google having complete control over the design process, Google is really setting the standard for Android devices. As it did with the Chromebook Pixel, it's designed to show what can be done on these devices.

The Chromebook Pixel set a benchmark for Chromebooks, aiming to be the best it could be - and it was fantastic. It was a premium devices, then followed by Chromebooks from other manufacturers that were affordable.

The same applied to the Pixel C. This tablet was designed without compromise, and offered some wonderful experiences with the keyboard, even if there were some shortcomings. 

Moving forward, we'd expect Pixel smartphones to set the standard for Android, similar to the approach that Nexus took, but with Google firmly at the helm. We suspect that might also see the price increasing.