Chrome OS updates point to possibility of Chrome tablets

Google’s Chrome OS is designed to run on laptops, desktops, and other devices — but there’s mounting evidence that we could eventually see Chrome OS tablets (or at least convertible notebooks).

Right now there’s only one touchscreen Chromebook on the market, the $1299 Chromebook Pixel. Soon there may be more, with evidence that Acer plans to launch Chromebooks with touch input.

But in both of those cases, there’s not much need for an on-screen keyboard, since the laptops already have physical keyboards. So why does Google keep working on improving the virtual keyboard built into Chrome OS?

Chrome OS virtual keyboard

Google’s François Beaufort reports that latest developer version of Chrome includes a virtual keyboard that has nearly all the same keys you’d find on a physical Chromebook keyboard.

That includes shortcuts for back and forward buttons, page refresh, full-screen, volume, and brightness settings, and even a power key.

Meanwhile, the Chrome team continues to add support for additional touchscreen gestures, including the ability to swipe down from the top of the screen with three fingers to view an overview of all your open browser tabs or apps.

Clue 3 is a bit iffier. Developers have been testing Chrome OS on a new board code-named “Rambi” that features an Intel Bay Trail processor. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a company working on a Bay Trail-powered Chrome OS device… but it certainly could mean that.

It also doesn’t mean that device would be a tablet — although it’s certainly a possibility. Most of the devices released so far with Intel Bay Trail processors have been tablets or hybrids like the Dell Venue Pro 11 and Asus Transformer Book T100. But Bay Trail chips could also be used for desktops or notebooks — and the Bay Trail platform covers Intel Atom, Celeron, and Pentium chips.

The one thing they have in common is that Bay Trail chips tend to be less powerful (and cheaper) than processors based on Intel’s Haswell architecture — and since we’re already seeing inexpensive Chromebooks with Celeron/Haswell chips such as the $249 Acer C720 Chromebook, Chrome OS laptops with a Bay Trail processor would likely be even cheaper (unless they have premium features such as touchscreens or detachable tablet sections).

  • NeedName

    Wasn’t there something going on when OEMs pushed Android onto tablets, Google wanted Chrome OS but OEMs wanted Android and stopped waiting for Google, thus the Android team hacked out 3.0 just for tablets, and during that time Eric Schmidt was said to have been at a party, either talking about or showing off a Chrome OS tablet?

    So, pretty sure they had this idea there for a while just couldn’t get OEMs onboard.

    • digi_owl

      Don’t recall hearing about that. But until 2.1, Google required a mobile radio on any device to be certified for Play.

  • cheeto0

    I believe that long term google believes chrome os is the future and not android, ios…etc

    • Guest

      I agree. And I don’t think it takes much fortune telling to figure this out. As these smaller devices get more powerful it just doesn’t make any sense to have two OSs. Android is heading towards the dustbin of history. Not that it was a bad OS, but it’s just about through serving it transitional purpose.

      • Arrdee

        Dream all you want guys but it isn’t going to happen. Google and the ISVs have the metrics that tell the tale, Android users prefer rich native applications to the Web hands down. iPad is where the surfers are. More likely Android will spread to the desktop before it ever gets replaced by ChromeOS on tablets. I’d expect the tiny niche ChromeOS to die first if anything.

      • kalo88

        Android is heading towards the dustbin? With over an 80% market share on the smartphone world I don’t think so….

  • Michael Thompson

    I would give a Chrome tablet a try

    • Willem van Veen

      Me too. I am already a happy chromebox user.

  • http://opinadorcompulsivo.blogspot.com Miquel Mayol i Tur

    Intel said that soon – this christmas season – there will be 100 USD Intel tablets
    Ubuntu Tizen or Chrome OS will run twice as fast as Android – Intel performs 50% at dalvik compared with ARM with similar sinthetics tests – So Intel did cut he price to half as if Android where the only OS out there making it a bargain for Ubuntu Tizen or Chrome OS – with crouton – to avoid Ubuntu raise and keep it Google

  • ReekDaGeekFreak

    This Thursday (October 31), Google is supposedly announcing the Nexus 5 and watch.

    It would make a GREAT DEAL of sense to announce an Acer touchscreen-laptop at the same event/time with all the press taking notice. My price guess is $300-330.

    Furthermore the C720 is not shipping yet… Why?? Perhaps to announce touchscreen variant at a notable release event??

    I agree that’s a lot of speculation by me, but makes some decent sense.

    That would also be a counter the Asus Transformer Windoze laptop w/touchscreen (for $349 w/o Office), which should also be a good deal.

  • Devin Rhode

    A few people really do want a ChromeTab as you can see here: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/chromebook-central/KtscKcvvQ7s