Every so often, the Chrome OS team takes the time to give the new device setup experience a fresh coat of paint. Giving new graphics and a more user-friendly “out of the box experience”, or OOBE as we call it, allows them to increase the adoption rate for Chromebooks a bit by making them approachable and reduce friction for those getting started.
A new Chromium Bug report shows a brand new initial screen for the OOBE and indicates that its various subscreens which take the user through the setup process will also be redesigned before this comes to the Stable channel.
[CrOS] OOBE: Update welcome screen to the new layout
[CrOS] OOBE: Update welcome subscreensChromium Bug Tracker
If you compare the new theming to the current one that you get when setting up or power washing a Chromebook, there are several items of note. First, and most obviously, the new graphics. Google has decided to take up more of the screen’s real estate to humanize the device using graphics of people, well, using devices. It also uses the slogan “Fast. Secure. Effortless.” Previously, Chrome OS rallied around the slogan “Speed. Security. Simplicity.”
Next, you’ll notice that instead of saying “Welcome to your Chromebook”, or “Welcome to your Chrome OS device”, it instead states “Welcome to Chrome Device”. It’s likely that “Chrome Device” is meant to act as a placeholder for your device’s name or model, but because it omits “OS” from the Chrome Device name, this has caused me to notice something extremely peculiar.
Look at the graphic of the people – their Chromebooks are nice, right? Wait, what’s that? Only one of them is using a Chromebook? That’s right – this screen is likely not just for Chromebooks, and I do think that “Chrome Devices” was intentional verbiage. To me, that doesn’t seem like a mistake or a placeholder with bad grammar. While the Chrome team does iterate quickly and often has a mistake or two in how they type out their commits and comments to one another, that still doesn’t excuse the graphic’s interesting use of other hardware configurations.
Instead, the person in the middle is using a phone, and the person on the left is holding what looks like a Chromebook, but with one hand. Because that would be an odd choice for a vector illustration since Google never recommends you hold your Chromebook in the palm of your hand, that, my friends, could very well be a foldable Chrome device!
Let us not forget that back when Google launched the Chromeos.dev website, it prominently featured a graphic that clearly shows a phone and a foldable device next to the tablet and Chromebook. To this day, neither of these device configurations exists in a Chrome OS variant.
However, while the website is geared at helping developers adapt their Android apps to Chromebooks and the web, and while this could be the simple explanation for the presence of these devices in the image, it still doesn’t make sense to feature them on a Chrome OS OOBE start screen. Well, not unless you’re planning on porting Chrome OS to these devices. Android phones and foldables do not currently run Chrome OS, but the new setup process would seem to indicate that the company’s efforts may one day branch beyond clamshells and tablet-style Chromebooks.
With Google’s mysterious Fuchsia OS recently proposing a way it could run Android apps and Linux software, and since it is, at its core, an OS meant to adapt to any screen, it makes sense to me that this could be plausible. Up until now, we haven’t seen any clear evidence that Chrome OS ties at all in with other hardware, but we have seen Fuchsia running on the 2017 Pixelbook.
Maybe the graphic is just showing someone holding a Chromebook irresponsibly with one hand, another holding it in tablet configuration from the side, and yet another using it as a clamshell. I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy, but we really don’t see Chromebooks appearing in vector images in any way other than that which shows them clearly and with intentional clamshell form. We know that Google is attempting to expand its marketing and encourage users to utilize them in new ways, so it could just be as simple as that.
Anyway, according to the version number at the top right of the image, the new experience is currently aiming to release with Chrome OS 90, but we’ll have to wait and see. If it does, in fact, release that soon, there’s no way this is going to include foldables and phones, but there are still some things that just don’t add up. Again, this is all just some fun speculation, but the thought of Google replacing Android with Chrome OS on Pixel phones one day still gets me so excited.
The new OOBE start screen is being tested with several resolutions:
800 x 1200
888 x 1333
If we get our hands on any of the subscreens for the setup experience, we’ll be sure to update this post. What do you think? Would you like to see Google replace Chrome OS, Android, Wear OS, and so on with Fuchsia – one universal zircon-based operating system? Do you think the graphic simply shows people holding Chromebooks in different ways, or is it possible that the verbiage of “Chrome Device” along with them may hint at something bigger? Let’s discuss this in the comments section!