Since our coverage of the much-anticipated Chromebook ‘Kevin’ began hitting the web, one really big question has eluded us.
Who is making ‘Kevin’?
Today, we think we have pretty clear proof that Samsung will be producing ‘Kevin’ and we are super-excited to share it with you!
First, a bit about the history of Samsung, Chromebooks, and why this makes a lot of sense even without any hard proof. (relax, we have some good proof here, too!)
Samsung, with it’s Series 5 Chromebook, was the first OEM to make a Chromebook. Yes, there was the CR-48, but it was simply part of the initial testing of Chrome OS and was not available commercially. Samsung was the first to make a bonafide Chromebook. They were also the third.
And for today, that is more important.
You see, the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook (or as many knew it, simply the Samsung Chromebook) was the real launch point for Chromebooks. It was the first marketed Chrome OS device. It was the first Chromebook with a reasonable price tag. It was the first Chromebook that Google put some actual marketing dollars behind.
It was FOR EVERYONE. Remember that campaign?
I do too. It was what made me consider trying a Chromebook and what made me eventually order the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook for our home. The idea of Chrome OS finally had a torch-bearer. The Chromebook had become a device to consider and try. It was a new idea and a fresh computing paradigm.
And I remember loving it from the first moment.
The point being, Samsung was the company that partnered with Google to really kickstart this new Chrome OS movement. Chrome OS had been a thing for around a year before the Series 3 came along and delivered it to the public in a real, concrete way. The CR-48 and Series 5 before it were phase one. Testing. A trial period.
The Series 3 showed up to move Chrome OS to the next phase.
We think this may be happening with ‘Kevin’ too. As Chromebooks are getting ready to move in a new direction with the addition of Android Apps and convertible devices showing up left and right in the Chromium OS Repositories, we think ‘Kevin’ might just be the torch-bearer Chromebooks need to lead the charge into the general public’s awareness. Google and Samsung together again.
Now, let’s look at some facts.
First up we have to thank an awesome reader of Chrome Unboxed for an email tip. His digging in the Chromium Repositories led him to find many, many commits owned by a pair of guys with @samsung.com email addresses: Wonjoon Lee and Jongpil Jung. Now, we have seen @samsung email addresses here and there in the commits as we’ve kept an eye on ‘Kevin’, but as I looked at the commits mentioned by our new friend, I saw things I had missed until now.
Before today, all the Samsung emails I’d noticed in the commits were in reference to the earphone jack and basic speaker/sound issues. Earphone jacks certainly don’t signal a device’s manufacturer. And, it’s not out of the ordinary for all sorts of people from different companies to review commits. It’s a much bigger deal when they are the owners of the commits.
It’s even bigger when those commits cover things like:
- Touchpad function here and here
- big.LITTLE SoC voltage (this is the type of ARM processor the Rockchip is, BTW)
- Board Voltage Regulation
- Processor Clock Speeds
- Wireless MIMO Functions (WiFi and Bluetooth)
Once I saw all these commits to very fundamental and crucial parts of ‘Kevin’ being owned by Samsung guys, I knew something bigger was going on.
Still not satisfied, we pulled up commits from the already released Samsung Chromebook 3. Guess who we saw all over the same types of commits.
Wonjoon Lee and Jongpil Jung.
Wait, though. What about that Sharp 3:2 Hi-DPI screen we recently reported ‘Kevin’ being outfitted with?
It turns out, according to Reuters, Samsung invested heavily in Sharp back in 2013 with the plans of making Sharp a key display supplier. So, that Sharp display on a Samsung device? Not so out of place at all, it seems.
Are we definitively saying ‘Kevin’ is being made by Samsung? Not yet. We likely won’t know that 100% until it is announced.
Are we saying ‘Kevin’ is very, very likely going to have a Samsung label on it?
Yes. Yes we are.
And, as history shows us, Samsung is a good partner for this kind of thing. They brought Android to the masses. They brought Chromebooks to the masses. It looks like they might be bringing the Android Apps on Chromebooks to the masses, as well.
As for ‘Kevin’ being a Pixel-branded device? If this all pans out, it is unlikely. Pixel devices, up to this point, aren’t branded regardless who makes them.
Samsung is great at lots of stuff, but discretely making a device and getting zero brand recognition out of it? They aren’t so good at that.
So while we may be saying goodbye to one hope, we can embrace this new hope with a lot less speculation.
Samsung makes well-built hardware. Samsung makes really attractive hardware. If ‘Kevin’ gets some of Samsung’s top-tier treatment, we may be in for something really, really special.