Chrome OS Coming to Tablets, As It Should

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Chrome OS notebooks won’t arrive until later this year, but Google is already planning for tablets.

CNet’s Stephen Shankland found lots of tablet evidence among the Chrome OS source code, including a virtual keyboard and touch-optimized tabs. Google then confirmed that it’s “engaging in early open-source work for the tablet form factor.”

For now, notebooks are the top priority for Chrome OS, which is essentially the Chrome browser reworked as a web-based operating system. “We expect to see different partners build different kinds of devices based on Chrome OS, but for this initial release we are targeting the notebook form factor.”

I’m glad but not surprised to see Google planning for Chrome OS tablets. About a year ago, Google Senior Software Engineer Glen Murphy posted several renderings of a mock Chrome OS tablet.

More importantly, the Chrome Web Store, which launched last December, screams for tablets. Some of the best apps are designed for leisure activities like reading and watching videos — the kind of things you’d do on a tablet — and many of them would translate well to the touch screen. NPR’s Chrome web app, for instance, is nearly a duplicate of its iPad counterpart. Sinuous, an addictive avoid-the-dots game, would work better with a finger than a mouse.

Google has another tablet strategy in action with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, causing some pundits to call for the death of Chrome OS. But I still think Google’s onto something with its web-based operating system, and I’d like to see Chrome OS tablets come to market. It’s probably not going to happen for a while anyway, so Android should have plenty of breathing room.