In my excitement on Friday about finding a pretty clear connection to a new Google-made Chromebook in ‘Halvor’, I honestly looked right by another key clue that alludes to the fact that this device very well could be a Google-branded Chromebook. When it comes down to hardware, there is little to differentiate Google’s own Chromebooks from those made by other manufacturers apart from hardware keys on the device, and as I was excited by the Assistant key appearing on ‘Halvor’, I looked right past another important key being included.
The humble play/pause button on Chromebooks is a relatively-new addition that only began with the Pixelbook. It is part of what we all thought would be a new keyboard layout for Chromebooks moving forward after the launch of that device. Oddly-enough, we didn’t see this particular layout again until the Pixel Slate a year later and not again until the Pixelbook Go a year after that. There have been a few variations on the Chrome OS keyboard, like what we saw in Dell’s 2019 enterprise-focused, VM-ready Latitude Chromebooks, but there have been no other sightings of the exact top-row layout that the Google devices carry on any other Chromebooks.
While it is worth noting that the two third-party keyboards that have the Assistant key built in (Logitech K580 and Brydge C-Type) also get this unique top-row layout with the play/pause button added, no Chromebook has come with it built in except Google’s own devices. I went back and looked at videos and images of all the Chromebooks we’ve reviewed in the past few years and, much to my surprise, there was no other device with this setup. Until ‘Halvor’, that is. According to this commit, the layout of the keyboard for ‘Halvor’ will match Google’s own Chromebooks down to the last key.
Is this firm proof that ‘Halvor’ is made by Google? No, just like the addition of the Assistant key isn’t. And as I’m fully aware of the existence of confirmation bias, I can’t even completely say that I’m not falling prey to it right now. I’m looking in every nook and cranny for more proof that ‘Halvor’ is made by Google not because I want to be right (I obviously do), but because I have a deep, deep desire for Google to show up with a Chromebook for us to love this year. We’ll keep digging and we’re hoping we end up finding a smoking gun, but I’m also prepared to just be a hopeful Google fan going into October this year. Who knows, may Stephen Hall over at 9to5 Google will just get this device before then and leak it all out like he did with the Pixelbook Go. A guy can hope, right?