Sunday, April 10, 2011

Google to soon release a tablet version of its Chrome OS

Initial details in Google's source templates reveal that the company's coders have begun building a tablet version of Chrome OS, its browser-based operating system released in November 2009, and that will be released soon. But this doesn't come as a surprise to some, given that Google already created a few mock-ups of a Chrome OS tablet more than a year ago.

However, this does indicate that a tablet incarnation of Google's Web-based operating system is a near-term priority, not just a vague concept. And Google did acknowledge that the tablet version of Chrome OS is coming soon, but still wouldn't discuss any details such as when the project's first version will be completed.

"We are still engaging in early open-source development work for the tablet form factor, but we have nothing new to announce at this time," the company said in a statement.

But Chrome OS tablets are not first on the list. Google said "Chrome OS was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of form factors. We expect to see different partners build different types of devices based on Chrome OS, but for this initial release we are targeting the notebook form factor."

Google's Chrome Web-based operating system has been evolving since the search giant announced it in November 2009. Initially, it was aimed mostly at Netbooks-- low-end 'utility' laptops. However, the first incarnation of Chrome OS-- a pilot release intended for developers and testers rather than ordinary customers, arrived in a more polished laptop package called the CR-48.

But a tablet version of Chrome OS raises a big question about Google's strategy, since the company's tablet version of its Android operating system, Honeycomb, is just now arriving on the market with Motorola's Xoom and other products designed to compete with the leader of the tablet market, Apple's iPad.

A number of changes in Chrome and Chrome OS source code that arrived in March and April reveal that the tablet works. Among some of the features:

  • A virtual keyboard with a number of keys-- tab, delete, microphone, return and shift-- drawn in SVG so they can be shown by a browser. Screen keyboards are a necessity with tablets.
  • A variety of moves to make the browser more touch-friendly, for example by increasing the space around items to make it easier to select them with a touch interface.
  • A revamped new-tab page that's optimized for the touch. The current page shows an array of Web applications downloaded from the Chrome Web Store, but the modified version adds multiple screens of icons in the style of iOS devices.
  • The orientation of the new-tab page will change when the device is rotated, according to the new-tab page's coding annotations. The CSS code for the new-tab page also indicates that programmers would like to be able to move icons around the page, preferably with animation.
The three rectangles at the bottom select between multiple screens of apps that slide by, though at this stage the second and third pages are blank and the text at the bottom of the page is only a placeholder.

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