Google is baking specifications for a tablet based on its Chrome operating system tablet in its open-source code. With Android Honeycomb tablets marching, a Chrome OS tablet is curious.
A tablet computer based on Google's Chrome operating system is wending its
way through the search engine's open-source pipeline, the company confirmed.
Chrome OS is Google's lightweight, Web-based operating system, a departure
from Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac platforms.
Google gave away
a CR-48 test notebook last winter, and the company said
Chrome OS would appear on notebooks from Samsung and
Acer later this year.
and a demo video
of what a tablet computer running Chrome OS looks
like surfaced on Google's Chromium open-source Website in February 2010, just days
after the original Apple iPad was introduced.
Little has been heard about a Chrome OS tablet since, but CNET
discovered changes in Chrome, and Chrome OS source code point to the progress
of the slate.
Among the finds is text
that browsers supply so Web servers can deliver Websites
tailored for touch-screen interfaces. There are specs for a virtual keyboard
with tab, delete, microphone, return and
shift keys. A revamped new tab page has been "optimized for touch,"
with application icons that may be moved around the screen.
Google confirmed the existence of the Chrome OS tablet specifications, but
told eWEEK no product was forthcoming. "We are engaging in early
open-source work for the tablet form factor, but we have nothing new to
announce at this time," a Google spokesperson said.
Google envisioned the first Chrome OS devices would be clamshell form factor
netbooks, but the CR-48 was a notebook. The change was perhaps triggered by the
wild success of the iPad; sales of netbooks designed solely for Web surfing
dropped precipitously after the inception of the iPad.
Count IDC analyst Al Hilwa among analysts not surprised by a Chrome OS
tablet at a time when IDC expects tablet sales to reach 44.6 million units in
2011 and 70.8 million units in 2012.
"I think the tablet form factor will increasingly be seen as trendier,
more suitable for content consumption and casual use, more accessible to
non-computer-savvy audiences because of the directness of the touch
interface," Hilwa told eWEEK.
"For this reason, any new OS offering has to cater to that directly and
include the appropriate developer APIs and mechanisms to make sure apps can
work in both modes."
Industry watchers are keenly waiting to see what sort of tablet might emerge
from Chrome OS, particularly since slates based on Google's Android 3.0
"Honeycomb" operating system are storming the market.
Motorola Mobility's Xoom
is the only Honeycomb tablet currently
available, but Samsung, LG, Toshiba, Sony and others will bring Honeycomb
tablets to the market before year's end.
There is the concern that Android and Chrome OS tablets could cannibalize
each other, agreed Hilwa.
"Positioning it as a tablet brings into the foreground the overlap with
Android Honeycomb and begs the question of which Google really wants OEMs to
use," Hilwa said. "For this reason also, I think that most of the
Chrome OS technology will surface in Android at some point in an incremental
Hilwa said the application architectures need to take advantage of the
computing power in the tablet to provide great performance through caching and
offline work, since Internet access is still not ubiquitous or cheap.
"Once we see such offline technologies work effectively in Chrome, then
we may see it achieve broader acceptance [as a cloud device]," Hilwa