A few months back, we reported on a new internal Chromebook keyboard firmware that goes by the name ‘Vivaldi.’ This new firmware will allow future Chromebooks to have a bit of variance in their function key layout, allowing manufacturers the opportunity to add things like the privacy screen toggle we just saw today on the HP Elite c1030 Chromebook that is coming in August. From the looks of other commits around this effort, it would seem ‘Vivaldi’ will become the standard keyboard firmware moving forward for all Chromebooks with or without specialized keyboard layouts.
The unique thing we found today, however, hints at even more expansion of those same function keys than what we previously thought. At first, it appeared that ‘Vivaldi’ would allow for an extra key here or there, but as it turns out, this new firmware will open the door to the possibility of Chromebooks with up to 15 function keys up top. According to the commit from the Chromium Repositores:
common/keyboard_8042: When pressed, print F11-F15 for debug
Vivaldi adds support for a new keyboard layout, and more function keys.
Allow to print F11-F15 labels when debugging those extra keys.
Sure, having the ability to swap out a key here and there to get some new hardware functionality is cool, but giving hardware manufacturers the room to expand the current keyboard layout by 5 additional keys is an interesting move. The Chrome OS keyboard layout, like it or hate it, has been pretty standardized for years. While I’m hopeful that this added flexibility will give Chromebook makers the room they need to add new, fun hardware perks to upcoming Chromebooks, I’m also a tad worried that our keyboards may go from streamlined and simple to overwrought and overly-complex.
There’s something nice about the Chromebook keyboard when comparing it against the sometimes-chaotic nature of many Windows laptop keyboards and I hope this move to allow more permutations of the basic setup doesn’t end up sullying the neat and tidy layout we enjoy right now. Time will tell, obviously, and I want to see more and more awesome tech in Chromebooks: I’m just a sucker for simplicity.