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?
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).