We only have about 3 weeks left before the big Google hardware event on October 9th. While the jury is out on whether or not Google has anything surprising in store for the Pixel 3 line of phones, there’s no doubt that there’s much to look forward to when we start talking Chromebooks.
It’s a crazy time when a Google event has more buzz around it concerning a Chrome OS device (or two) than an Android device, but that’s exactly where we are.
As excitement continues to build, we’re still doing all the things we normally do: digging through the repositories in search of clues and hints about what is next for Chromebooks.
One of the hottest topics of late is clearly ‘Nocturne’, the ostensibly #madebyGoogle detachable we expect to see alongside a proper Pixelbook refresh in ‘Atlas’. If you haven’t read up on both of these devices by now, you can go here to see all sorts of stuff on ‘Nocturne’ and on ‘Atlas’.
Detachable or Tablet?
When we talk about ‘Nocturne’, one of the lingering questions has been, “What sort of device are we talking about, here?”
A detachable similar to the HP Chromebook x2 with a solid base and hinge? Something more akin to a Microsoft Surface Pro? Or is it a tablet through and through with a keyboard function you might buy later?
I’ll be honest, I’ve been all over the map on this, but what I’ve found today seems to put a nail in the coffin when we talk about ‘Nocturne’s hardware category.
To be clear, ‘Nocturne’ looks to be a tablet.
We’ll talk proof in just a second, but I want to take that second to talk about why I think this could be a wise move by Google. When you think about things with removable keyboards, you usually think about tablets. Specifically, you probably think about something like the iPad Pro or the Surface Pro. Those devices are built to be tablets first and foremost, but with the ability to slap on a keyboard.
Admittedly, the iPad does the tablet portion better than anyone at this point. It is thin, light, and fast. It has a great screen. It runs mobile-type apps with aplomb and all the transitions around the OS are butter-smooth. It really dies on the productivity front for many, however, as the lack of windowed apps and precise mouse input just become too big of obstacles for many users to overcome.
On the flip side, Microsoft clearly has the desktop productivity side of the equation figured out, but using a Surface Pro as a tablet without a keyboard is a half-baked experience with a lacking app ecosystem.
Google has a shot to be able to do both quite well, but they need to be sure the software is up to snuff when this device hits the market. An issue here or there with Android apps isn’t a deal-breaker, but serious bugs with Android when in tablet mode could really be off-putting to consumers looking for something more akin to an iPad experience.
If they do it well, however, there’s a chance that a #madebyGoogle tablet could finally be the all-in-one dream device people like me have been wanting for years. Media and game consumption with ease and productivity when I need it. Take my money. You can check out the video below regarding how Google is setting up Chrome OS tablets to be not just consumption devices, but productivity workhorses as well.
Now that we have all that out of the way, I’m sure you are interested in the proof and why I believe we’re looking at Google’s first tablet since the Pixel C.
Take a look at this commit and the language therein:
camera_HAL3: add nocturne to tablet list
Add nocturne to tablet list so that the sensor orientation test will be
skipped on nocturne.
We’ll talk about the file being referenced here in just a second, but that language is intriguing, right? In this test, the devs are adding ‘Nocturne’ to the “tablet list” so it can be skipped. I’m not sure what ramification that has, but this is clearly a test that doesn’t need to be run on tablets. No mention of detachables or convertibles in tablet mode. Just tablets.
That’s where it gets even more telling. In the client/site_tests/camera_HAL3/camera_HAL3.py file that is being referenced, here, the most telling evidence comes forth:
tablet_board_list = [‘scarlet’, ‘nocturne’]
Yeah, that’s right: the only devices on this “tablet list” are ‘Nocturne’ and quite literally the only available Chrome OS tablet – ‘Scarlet’, AKA the Acer Chromebook Tab 10.
Combined with the language in the commit, it is very, very clear that ‘Nocturne’ is part of a very exclusive list of true Chrome OS Tablets. ‘Nocturne’ won’t be a detachable in the sense that we’ve already seen. It won’t be a convertible or a clamshell.
‘Nocturne’ will be a #madebyGoogle tablet.
For all the reasons I listed above, this excites me so much! And this also lines right up with Gabriel’s article about Brydge making a keyboard accessory for a Chromebook.
My bet is we’ll see ‘Nocturne’ launch as a standalone tablet with, perhaps, an official #madebyGoogle keyboard case. In addition, however, users will likely see a growing list of 3rd-party keyboards that will also be a part of the ‘Nocturne’ ecosystem. It is a bold move by Google, and one I think that could pay huge dividends in 2019. I’m so pumped for October 9th!