It pains me to have to write this. It really does. However, I feel the need to share the very unfortunate evidence that leads me to the conclusion that Google may not be working on a new Pixelbook after all. With a few hopeful candidates in the queue, an almost-certain blockbuster Google hardware event coming in the fall, and the fact that it’s been 2 years since Google gave us our last Google-made Chromebook, I was pretty hopeful that we’d see something from them in October. As it stands, the evidence is pointing in a completely different direction.
Let’s start with the boards
If you’ve been around here for a bit, you’ll notice the names ‘Halvor’ and ‘Lindar’. Both of these development boards have unique features that generally are only found on Google-made Chromebooks. For ‘Halvor’, it is the addition of the Assistant Key on the keyboard. No other Chromebooks have come with that key on the keyboard deck, so nearly a year ago when I found evidence that ‘Halvor’ was coming with this special key and the exact top-row layout as other Google-made Chromebooks, I was quite hopeful.
Then came ‘Lindar’ and solid proof of a Chromebook with a light bar in the works. If you recall, light bars and Google devices go hand-in-hand, dating back to the original Chromebook Pixel, it’s successor, and the Pixel C tablet. Only one other Chromebook got this visual flare, and it was a very-Google themed Chromebook made in conjunction with HP in the Chromebook 11. Surely this meant ‘Lindar’ was set to be a #madebyGoogle Chromebook, right? But which one was really the next Pixelbook? Was it ‘Halvor’ or ‘Lindar’? Turns out it probably isn’t either.
Now, on to current evidence
For months now, I’ve been a tad bit dejected at the absolute lack of progress with ‘Halvor’. As a matter of fact, if you search the Chromium Repositories for ‘Halvor’, you’ll find that no work has been done on it since March 5th of 2021. That is coming up on 4 full months with absolutely zero development. That is generally a sign that a board has been totally abandoned in favor of something else. While it hasn’t completely been shut down, the chance that ‘Halvor’ is a Google-made Chromebook that we could see this fall is extremely unlikely at this point.
But there’s still ‘Lindar’, right? Bad news there, too. With Lenovo’s recent pre-MWC announcement of their two new consumer Chromebooks (the Chromebook Flex 5i and Chromebook 5i), there was a surprising addition to the non-convertible Chromebook that caught my attention quite quickly: a light bar under the trackpad. Granted, this light bar isn’t quite what we see on the Chromebook Pixels, but it got my interest piqued.
Just yesterday, Gabriel pointed out the fact that on the official Chrome OS devices page for developers there is already a new entry for Lenovo: ‘Lillipup’. For reference, ‘Lillipup’ has been developed side-by-side with ‘Lindar’ from the beginning and you can see it constantly through the repositories. Both ‘Lillipup’ and ‘Lindar’ are cut from the same block, both are 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake and both are most definitely Lenovo Chromebooks. So is ‘Lillipup’ the new Chromebook Flex 5i or just the Chromebook 5i? I wasn’t sure, and so I still held out hope that perhaps ‘Lillipup’ is the Chromebook 5i and the Flex 5i has one of the other code names.
Then I remembered the OLED option on the new Flex 5i. Taking that info back to the repositories, I did a quick search and you can likely guess what I found. ‘Lillipup’ is one of the few devices with the necessary code bits to have an OLED screen variant.
Now, let’s do the math. If ‘Lillipup’ is the Chromebook Flex 5i (it 100% is) and ‘Lindar’ was built in very, very close conjunction with it, has a light bar, should be in the same development cycle, and is also 100% built by Lenovo, it stands to reason that ‘Lindar’ is the Lenovo Chromebook 5i and the little light bar we see under the trackpad is the light bar we’ve been tracking since March. Let that sink in for a second and then we’ll proceed.
With this in mind, I went back to look at ‘Lindar’ a bit closer and realized that the commits I found months ago about a four-color LED light bar have actually been abandoned in favor of a new light bar setup that looks to be exactly what we have in the Lenovo Chromebook 5i.
Don’t get me wrong, the light bar on the Chromebook 5i will be a cool touch and will give a quick-glance battery level for users, but it isn’t what most of us were hoping for. Not even close, actually. At the end of the day, no one was really that pumped for a light bar at all. We were hoping for the promise of a new Chromebook built by Google: a proper Pixelbook successor, a next-gen Chromebook, and one that carries Google’s unique attention to aesthetics and build. And as nice as the Lenovo Chromebook 5i may end up being, it won’t be what we were hoping it was.
So, where do we go now?
The bummer here is the fact that we don’t have any other candidates in line. There are no other hints of Google-made Chromebooks anywhere we can find right now, and that just sucks. Sure, Chromebooks have come a long way and devices like the HP Chromebook Elite c1030 I’m typing on right now are beautifully crafted and great to use, there’s just something a bit more special about Google’s own designs. Google’s Chromebooks have always been just a cut above everyone else’s and that’s why we clamor after them so much.
Here’s my bet. Google is ready to launch their own silicon with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro in just a few months. The reports also say that Google has been working on integrating these chips into Chromebooks as well, and I’d wager they won’t make another Google-branded Chromebook without their own chips inside, and I can’t really blame them. If they are even a year out from that realization at this point, it makes sense for them to wait. There are absolutely fantastic Chromebooks on shelves right now and a ton more on the way this year, so the ecosystem is fine without another Pixelbook for the time being. I suppose my dejection has little to do with the Chromebook world needing a new Pixelbook and much more to do with the fact that I – and many others like me – simply want it. But for now, that’s just not enough to see one materialize, so we wait. And as we wait, we’ll keep searching for the next in line from Google.