‘Krane’ is a Chrome OS device in development that we’ve not talked about too often. As a matter of fact, we mentioned it upon its arrival in our consciousness in April of this year and once again as Gabriel found it would be only the second Chrome OS device to make the questionable decision of ditching the headphone jack. Other than those two posts, we’ve not really tracked anything unique about this device, but we have a few more clues to add to the pile that tell us a bit more about this upcoming tablet-only device.
First up, let’s get the clues from the Chromium Repositories out of the way. We have two things of interest, here. On one hand, we have proof that in lieu of a headphone jack, Lenovo looks to be assuring support for a USB Type C to 3.5mm headphone converter. That bit of proof comes with a clear reference to Lenovo, so I suppose that’s a 2-for-1 clue. Second, we have proof that they will be removing the POGO pin support we expect most of the ‘Kukui’-based devices to ship with.
Let’s start with the latter. POGO support is being removed from ‘Krane’ and if you’ve been following along, ‘Krane’ is one of a slew of new devices based on the ‘Kukui’ baseboard. This ‘Kukui’ board is toting support for things like a MediaTek 8183 chip, ambient light sensing, Bluetooth 5, detachable/tablet form factors, and more. We know there are at least 10 of these devices in development and we expect to start seeing the first ones arrive at CES in just a couple weeks.
POGO pins are, in general, used for keyboard accessories in detaching devices like the Pixel Slate and HP X2. This port gives tablet devices a quick way to pair up with a keyboard for use as a laptop when necessary and we expect to see quite a bit of this with ‘Kukui’-based devices. It would have made perfect sense for ‘Krane’ to leverage this connector, but it has clearly been removed as seen in the language from this commit in the repositories:
krane: do not support POGO dock
krane doesn’t have a POGO dock, the config should be dropped.
So, why drop the POGO pin support? We’re looking to find more clues about this, but it seems that ‘Krane’ will likely be a tablet-first and tablet-only device. There have only been a few devices like this in the Chrome OS ecosystem thus far, and they were oddities. The most popular and notable was the Acer Chromebook Tab 10. With a very nice screen and pen support, it was a decent tablet held back mainly by the poor tablet mode of Chrome OS at the time and the sluggish Rockchip processor.
I suppose it is time to try again with a Chrome OS tablet and Lenovo looks to be one of the companies giving it a shot. With pen support likely, this device could end up being very similar to the Acer Chromebook Tab 10, but with a much-improved software interface and what we’re hoping will be a much faster ARM processor than the Rockchip RK3399.
We keep referring to ‘Krane’ as a Lenovo device, and that is for good reason. The other commit we’ve uncovered is a very clear nod not only to the maker of this device, but to the fact that they’ll be giving users a work-around for the fact that ‘Krane’ will ship without a headphone jack. The language we found in this particular commit gives all this away:
krane: Add Lenovo USB-C TO 3.5mm Adapter
Add Lenovo USB-C TO 3.5mm Adapter
First up, it is very clear now that this device will be made by Lenovo. Commits don’t get written to include manufacturer-specific hardware if the device itself isn’t made by that manufacturer. Just like we saw with Dell’s Chromebook Enterprise offerings earlier this year, commits with manufacturer-specific language around manufacturer-specific peripherals make a clear-cut case for the maker of the device in question.
The bigger concern, here, is the decision by Lenovo to drop the headphone jack in favor of requiring users to get a dongle out in order to plug in headphones. Look, I know it is the 2019 thing to do, but why? With a tablet or Chromebook, it doesn’t seem necessary in the least. If the big argument for ditching the headphone jack is space, that argument just doesn’t hold water with larger devices. It seems, however, that Lenovo is doing it anyway.
With the removal of POGO pins and what looks to be the addition of the USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter in the box, Lenovo seems to be going all-tablet with ‘Krane’. Don’t expect this device to ship with a keyboard attachment in the box or show up with one available right away. My hope is Lenovo is at least considering a solution for those that would need one. I hope that, unlike other Chrome OS tablets, ‘Krane’ will get an official folio case with a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad (think Brydge G-Type for the Pixel Slate) that gives you some sort of stand function. Chrome OS on a tablet has come a long way, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that under that tablet UI is a great desktop device that many users will want to use in that way.