At the end of September, XDA Developers uncovered a new Kaby Lake Chrome device codenamed ‘Kalista‘. At that time, XDA speculated that the device appeared to be a new Chromebox due to a comment in the board’s initial overlay file.
The verbiage certainly points to a Chromebox or perhaps even a Chromebit as XDA speculated. However, something didn’t sit right with me as I began to dig through the scant number of files surrounding the new Kaby Lake device.
First, the Chromebit theory isn’t a bad one but in all honesty, the Chromebit never really took off despite its innovative attempt and making a powerful, portable computer that you could tote around in your pocket. I don’t see any OEMs looking to try and breath life back into this form-factor. Not only that, a Kaby Lake Chromebit would be a very advantageous undertaking. One of the biggest appeals of the Chromebit was the inexpensive nature a device of its nature brings to the table.
The new device ‘Kalista’ looks to be using the newer NVMe storage that can be found in Google’s Pixelbook. I don’t think that’s something you would see in a PC on a Stick that is meant to be budget-friendly.
That brings us back to the Chromebox form-factor.
Everything I’ve found in the Chromium repository supports the fact that ‘Kalista’ could, indeed, be a new Chrome desktop device but one thing still bugged me. Acer, HP, ASUS, CTL and even ViewSonic now have Kaby Lake-powered boxes on the market and each of these machines shares a common baseboard. ‘Fizz‘ is the baseboard overlay that is the platform for the latest generation of Chromeboxes. ‘Kalista’ is listed in the overlay list as a baseboard. So, why create a new baseboard for a Chromebox when you could just use the one that everyone else is using?
Answer: It’s not a Chromebox
After digging around in the overlay file of our new friend ‘Kalista’, I turned up the answer to my own question. This new Kaby Lake device will, in fact, be a Chromebase.
That’s right. Just when you thought the form-factor had been forgotten, someone is not only making a new one, it very well could be a monster of a device if it’s using some of the higher-powered, 8th gen Kaby Lake processors.
In case you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing a Chromebase in person, here’s Robby’s review of Acer’s Chromebase 24 from back in 2016. #throwbackthursday
Now, who’s making ‘Kalista’
The use cases for a Chromebase were fairly narrow as a desktop due to their bulky size and weight. For that reason, the all-in-one ChromeOS device gained a lot of traction in the enterprise sector as a kiosk device for digital signage as well as point of contact displays for retail customers. In Chrome computing’s short history, only three names have thrown their hat in the wring to make a Chromebase. LG, Acer and AOpen are the only Chromebase makers and as far as I know, LG is out of the Chrome OS arena.
That leaves Acer and AOpen. The latter, for those unfamiliar, specializes in digital signage and kiosk devices. They also have been working closely with Google to bring Chrome OS into a new age in the enterprise sector. This would be a good reason for them to be manufacturing a new Chromebase.
On the other hand, a Kaby Lake Chromebase would be overkill for most kiosk applications. For that reason, I am leaning towards Acer as the maker of this new Chromebase. That is solely based on my gut and what little information we have to go on from the repository. For all I know, another manufacturer has jumped on the kiosk bandwagon and are going all in with a new, powerful Chromebase. We will just have to wait and see.