When Will We See A Chrome OS Tablet?

Some time ago, I became one of the lucky few selected to beta test the first Chromebook, the Cr-48. I didn’t expect a lot from a notebook that was nothing more than a browser, and it delivered exactly what it claimed — a fast-booting OS with a browser…and very little more. The newer Samsung and Acer Chromebooks have greatly improved specs over the Cr-48, but they still leave a lot to be desired.

Will you ever see me running around with a Chromebook purchased with my own money? Not any time soon. There is simply too much functionality that I want in my notebooks that the Chrome browser can’t deliver (yet). Buggy and prone to frequent crashing, I’m a long way from sold.

So, I don’t think the Chromebook will fulfill my needs, but what about a Chome OS tablet? Hmm…now there’s an idea.

OK, so it’s not exactly my idea. Google has been hinting toward a tablet iteration of Chrome OS since at least early 2010 when it was leaked that Google was teaming with HTC to develop and answer to the iPad. That never came to fruition, and Google once again raised our hopes by releasing a tablet rendering and suggesting that a Chrome OS tablet was coming to Verizon in late November 2010. Again, our hopes were dashed. Will we ever see the Chrome OS tablet?

Google has left a few clues to suggest that the Chrome OS tablet is somewhere in their immediate development plans:

  • The Chrome OS source code now has a revision that includes “CrOS Touch” in the user-agent string instead of just “CrOS.” According to the log, this should let websites optimized for a tablet experience easily adapt to accommodate Chrome OS tablet devices.
  • The source code also seems to be making room for a virtual keyboard written in browser-supported SVG. A touch UI keyboard would be essential for a tablet in an Apple-defined market.
  • Google has confirmed code for a Chrome OS tablet. OK, great start…but that was April.

But what about Android tablets? Is Google going to find itself in a position where it is pitting its two operating systems against each other? Combine that with lackluster early reviews for Chrome OS and you have to wonder what exactly the strategy is here. I can see a Chrome tablet succeeding but where does that leave Android tablets? And better yet — why would somebody prefer a Google Chrome OS tablet over a Google Android OS tablet?

My prediction is pessimistic. Chrome OS is a neat idea, but it has limited production use. As a tablet, the OS seems ideal, but that space is already occupied by their own Android devices.

When will we see the Chrome OS tablet? I think sometime in 2012. When will we see its demise? Probably a year or so after its release. That will have to be my position until Google can convince me they have some ideas in mind for separating Android and Chrome OS.



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