Chrome OS has been a desktop-focused OS since the beginning. That comes as no surprise to anyone, right? Well, with all the most recent changes to Chrome OS both on the software and hardware front, there is more movement than ever getting Chrome OS ready for tablet use cases.
With the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 and HP Chromebook x2 already on the market, we’re set to see more tablet mode use than ever before with the slew of upcoming detachables on the horizon to add to the pack.
Coupled this with the countless convertibles already on offer and you have a ton of users clamoring for a better, more-integrated UI for tablets.
And Google is clearly working on that. Take a quick look at the video below if you need more proof that big changes are underway for tablets in Chrome OS 70, set to release in mid-October.
One Missing Thing
However, with all the excitement around tablet hardware and software, one thing has been missing for me with the idea of a Chrome OS tablet: proper desktop function.
Sure, if your device comes with a keyboard attachment of some sort (think convertibles and detachables), you can get into your desktop mode simply by engaging the keyboard deck. Flip into clamshell mode or attach your keyboard and the device knows to bring back the windowed interface and proper monitor extension, for instance.
The difference is a pretty big deal when you are sitting down to really dig into work. Having a proper desktop setup is crucial for most people’s workflow and having dual monitors and floating windows both play a big part in making it all work well.
Here’s the problem: with tablet-only devices like the Acer Chromebook Tab 10, the desktop function has been equal parts missing and broken. You can check out my review of the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 where I talk about this issue. I wanted to take a few days and force myself to work from it, but I simply couldn’t because of the lack of true desktop function. Adding a keyboard and trackpad didn’t really help since I couldn’t extend the small display and/or use windowed apps on either screen.
That’s all changing, though.
What we are seeing in Chrome OS 70 is a complete rethink of how tablets will behave when paired with ANY keyboard or mouse. As you’ll see in the video below, I pair up a Logitech keyboard and mouse with both the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 and the Pixelbook in tablet mode to show what Google is now doing for devices like these.
In Chrome OS 70, users are now getting a hybrid tablet/desktop mode that gives all the functionality back when the device is paired with a mouse and keyboard. This makes a bunch of new use cases possible while also opening the door for 3rd party accessory makers to build keyboard cases for upcoming Chromebook Tablets.
When compared with the iPad or the Surface, you get a best-of-both-worlds scenario: mobile apps and battery life of an iPad Pro with the full desktop potential of a Surface. It becomes a compelling idea and one that we cannot wait to fully explore in the coming months. I lean more and more towards the idea that ‘Nocturne’ will be a tablet first when it is announced. But we’ll know soon enough, won’t we?