Rumors of a Chrome OS tablet have been making the rounds for years. But 2017 might be the year we finally see one… well, depending on your definition of a tablet.
Last year’s Asus Chromebook Flip is arguably the first convertible Chromebook tablet, and a number of other convertibles with built-in keyboards have been released since the Flip first launched.
But this year we may see models with detachable keyboards or no keyboard at all.
Google unveiled two new convertible Chromebooks today, noting that they’re aimed at the education market and feature support for pen input.
But The Verge reports that yesterday Google’s Android and Chrome product director Rajen Seth made an interesting comment during a conference call ahead of today’s announcement “You may expect everything from detachables to tablets based on Chrome OS down the line.”
Up until recently, Google has drawn a pretty firm line between its Android and Chrome operating systems: Chrome was for notebooks and desktops, and Android was for smartphones and tablets (and TVs and watches, kind of).
But now you can run Android apps on a Chrome OS device… blurring the distinction between the two operating systems. And that comes at a time when Windows device makers have been blurring the lines between tablets and notebooks thanks to the rise of 2-in-1 devices with detachable and built-in keyboards in recent years.
Chrome OS has support touchscreen input for several years, including an on-screen keyboard and handwriting recognition which make it possible to run the operating system on devices that don’t have a keyboard. Support for Android apps brings all the benefits of native apps (including the ability to get work done while you’re offline), as well as support for the full Chrome desktop browser that allows you to view desktop versions of websites and install extensions to expand the capabilities of the browser.
Sure, there are still some things that you can do on a Windows or Mac computer that aren’t supported out-of-the-box on a Chrome OS device. But it’s getting harder to say that Chrome OS isn’t a “real” operating system… and if you’re skeptical, you could always wipe the OS and install an alternative. But you don’t even need to do that, since Chrome OS lets you enable a developer mode that makes it possible to run Ubuntu, Debian, or other Linux-based operating systems on a Chromebook without uninstalling Chrome OS (or even rebooting the device).