Chrome OS updated with on-screen keyboard – is a Chrome OS tablet coming?

April 9, 2014
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Amid speculation of an incoming Chrome OS tablet, Google updated today its cloud-based operating system with an on-screen keyboard and several other features.

The stable channel of Chrome OS was updated to version 34.0.1847.118, which brings bug fixes, performance improvements, and a few interesting new features. Among the highlights of the update, Google’s Chrome team mentions:

  • The ability to dock windows or panels to the sides of the screen;
  • Offline Google Drive backup will be enabled automatically for all users after first login;
  • The addition of an on-screen keyboard;
  • Sticky keys, which allows users to perform keyboard shortcuts by pressing one key at the time, instead of simultaneously.

The addition of the on-screen keyboard has been long in coming, with the first clues of the feature being spotted in development channels more than a year ago. So, while its arrival is no surprise, it seems a bit odd that Google would bother to add an on-screen keyboard in Chrome OS for use with a touchpad or a mouse. More likely, Google is prepping Chrome OS for the arrival of touch-enabled Chromebooks or, possibly, of a Chrome OS-powered tablet.

“A touch more connected.”

That leads us to a report from ZDNet that mentions an Acer event scheduled for late April that could see the introduction of the first ever Chrome OS tablet. The argument is the tagline of the event invitation, which reads “A touch more connected.”

Is Acer teasing a Chrome OS tablet? It’s hard to tell for sure, but ZDNet’s reasoning makes sense. One of the biggest Chromebook makers, Acer is one of the two OEMs that Google chose to launch the concept back in 2011, along with Samsung. While not very successful in the tablet business, Acer has the expertise to create a competitive Chrome OS tablet, and, because its Android tablets are lagging, the incentive to try new things.

But then again, Acer could simply be referring to a touchscreen-equipped Chromebook or something unrelated.

One thing is sure for now – Google is building up Chrome OS for touch devices, and it’s only a matter of time before the first such device hits the market. Several other touch-oriented features spotted in the Chrome OS source support this theory.

Whether this class of devices will be successful or not is an entirely different discussion. The biggest question is – why would you pick a Chrome tablet over an Android one?

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