While we are just at the beginning of an unprecedented flood of Chromebooks coming to market in the next 6 months, it doesn’t mean development of new devices isn’t still ongoing. In general, around this point in the year we begin seeing the next wave of large-core Intel devices begin showing up. It began back with ‘Nami’ (the 8th-gen Intel Chromebook family) and continued a couple years ago with the ‘Hatch’ family of devices that spawned all the 10th-gen Intel Comet Lake Chromebooks. Last year the momentum followed with the ‘Volteer’ family that is now starting to deliver Intel’s Tiger Lake processors in flagship Chromebooks like the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 and ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5.
For 2021’s development cycle, we’re keeping our eyes on devices spawning from ‘Brya’ – the torch-bearing base board that houses the 12th-gen Alder Lake chip from Intel that will power the next generation of flagship Chromebooks. We have a grand total of 3 so far – ‘Brya’, ‘Primus’, and ‘Shadowkeep’ – and we’re adding one to the list today. Generally, we can’t discern too much from the get-go with these new boards entering development, but ‘Gimble’ is a little different than the rest and what we found along with it led us to a bit more info on ‘Primus’ as well.
All in an email
With a few Chromebook makers, it’s the email that gives them away. Specifically, Samsung, ASUS and Dell tend to be pretty easy targets based completely on the emails attached to commits in the Chromium Gerrit. For Dell specifically, they are the only Chromebook maker that uses Wistron, so it becomes clear quite quickly that a new Chromebook hitting the development cycle is a Dell-made device when we start seeing those @wistron.corp-partner.google.com email addresses.
When we found ‘Gimble’ and saw the clear Wistron emails, it provoked a further search for other boards with those email addresses. We quickly realized that not only was ‘Gimble’ being built by Wistron, a previously-found Alder Lake Chromebook shares the same distinction in ‘Primus’. From what Dell has done in the past, this leads me to one of two pretty simple conclusions that definitely aren’t verified just yet, but make sense with Dell’s past efforts regarding Chrome OS devices.
With their 8th-gen enterprise devices, Dell went with two board names during development – ‘Sarien’ and ‘Arcada’ – and the two Latitude 5300/5400-series Chromebooks were different in a few ways. Sure, one was a clamshell and the other a convertible, but there were other marked differences between the two that were not present in last year’s decision to release one enterprise Chromebook – the Latitude 7410 – in two versions. Though a clamshell and convertible once again, Dell’s Comet Lake Chromebooks from last year were basically one and the same device. Buyers simply chose which form factor was best for them.
This duality of ‘Primus’ and ‘Gimble’ could be one of two outcomes. We could see these two devices as two enterprise variants – one clamshell and one convertible – and that is all that comes from Dell next year. Another outcome, however, could be Dell’s return to the consumer space. We’ve gone a number of years without a proper consumer-facing Chromebook from Dell, so perhaps we’ll see either ‘Primus’ or ‘Gimble’ emerge as a new Dell Inspiron or XPS Chromebook next year in addition to a new Latitude enterprise device.
For now, we can’t really make that distinction. We’ll be digging in on this one to see if perhaps Dell will finally arrive on the scene with a proper flagship Chromebook for general consumers again. Their Latitude from a few years ago was good, but I’m sure we’d all be excited about an XPS Chromebook down the road. With the growth of Chromebooks across all sectors, the timing could finally be right. We’ll just have to wait and see.