The first tablet running Google’s Chrome OS could be on the market soon, and it’s possible this operating system will eventually supplant Android on large tablets.
Chrome OS was designed to run on very inexpensive notebooks, not tablets. However, a new version of this operating system was introduced a few days ago that includes an on-screen keyboard (shown at right), a feature useless for laptops but absolutely critical for tablets.
This change could have been made so that Acer can take the wraps off a Chrome OS-based tablet, something the company may have hinted is in the offing. Acer recently sent out press invitations to an April 29 event that will have the theme “A Touch More Connected” — possibly a reference to a touchscreen-centered tablet.
Why Chrome OS?
Some might question the need for Chrome OS tablets, as Google’s Android OS is already already available for this class of devices. But there are good reasons why some device makers could be looking for an alternative.
While Android-based tablets are selling very well, the vast majority of these are small, inexpensive models with razor-thin profit margins. Samsung is the only company that has had any success in making full-size Android tablets with respectable profit margins.
Naturally, there will be advantages for consumers as well, with affordability being at the top of the list. Google designed Chrome OS for basic equipment. It will run on inexpensive processors, and because files are stored online devices require very little storage. As it stands now, full-size tablets generally start at about $500, but a Chrome tablet could well be significantly less.
Obviously, a Chrome OS tablet won’t be able to run Android apps, but this isn’t a big sacrifice. Although there is a huge array of Android software, only a small percentage of this has been optimized for large screens. Web apps written for Chrome OS, on the other hand, were deliberately created for large-screen devices, so users of a 9- to 11-inch tablet could see more software choices, not less. This includes Microsoft Office.
Chrome was created to power computers that are always connected to the Internet, but this won’t necessarily be a drawback for many. Studies have shown that people are most frequently using their tablets for web browsing, email, and social networking, all tasks that already require Internet access.
While Acer may be the first with a Chrome OS tablet, probably every company that makes a Chrome-based notebook now is considering it, like HP, Toshiba, and possibly even Samsung. An early success or two could lead to a raft of tablets running this operating system.