Two and a half years. As impossible as that sounds, it’s true. It has been two and a half long, confusion and frustrating years since we first uncovered evidence that Qualcomm and Google would finally bring together the obvious union of Chrome OS and the Snapdragon SoC. In that time, the original baseboard ‘Cheza’ has birthed the new baseboard ‘Trogdor’ that is the foundation of what we believe is at least two Qualcomm-powered devices that go by the names ‘Bubs’ and ‘Lazor’. Still, there hasn’t been a single shred of evidence or glimmer of hope that a Snapdragon Chromebook is in production let alone headed to the consumer market. That said, today we offer that glimmer of hope.
Until recently, most of the development work being done around Qualcomm Chrome OS devices has involved two groups of developers. The fine folks from the Chromium community and some Snapdragon-centric coders from the Code Aurora camp. Code Aurora is a collaborative Linux project where open source code can be tested and upstream through the proper channels in preparation for the development of physical devices. It also happens to be the community where a lot of work is done in relation to the Snapdragon SoCs. Long story short, the inclusion of Snapdragon processors to the Chrome OS environment has, without a doubt, required a lot of leg work from developers in both camps. That said, it’s about time we wrap things up and get a device to market because the iron is about as hot as it’s going to get.
I say that because Lenovo has hit one nearly out of the park with the premium-esque, budget-friendly Chromebook Duet tablet and chances are good that other OEMs could follow them down that same path. While Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoC will likely have its way with the MediaTek processor found in the Duet, it doesn’t do us any good if we can’t purchase a Chromebook powered by Qualcomm. The development cycle for a new Chromebook with a new to the platform processor is generally about twelve to eighteen months. That’s roughly the time from the addition of a new CPU in the repositories to the time we see an actual device in the hands of the public. In case you missed it above, it has been two and a half years since Qualcomm began work in the Chromium repo. I understand that this is an entirely new entrant into the Chromebook space but Chrome OS is no stranger to the ARM architecture and Qualcomm should have the resources to get things tidied up and ready to go.
Thankfully, a new Snapdragon Chrome OS device turned up today and I feel it’s a good indicator that the production of retail devices could be happening sometime in the near future. As I mentioned, Code Aurora and Chromium developers have been handling all of the prep work for Snapdragon Chromebooks but the two newest devices cloned from ‘Trogdor’ actually have ODMs attached to them. The first device, ‘Lazor’, was uncovered back in March and is being developed by Quanta. This company is an ODM that manufactures devices for a wide range of companies including Apple, Dell, Lenovo and even Google. Who’s behind ‘Lazor’ is still a mystery but I would suspect that most of the big-name Chromebook makers are eyeing Snapdragon for future devices.
Today, we saw the addition of another Qualcomm-powered Chromebook. ‘Pompom’ was created as a clone of the reference board ‘Trogdor’ and despite having little to now detail about the device, the attached emails tell us that it is being built by Compal.
pompom: Initial EC image
Create the initial EC image for the pompom variant by copying the trogdor reference board EC files into a new directory named for the variant.Chromium Commit
Like Quanta, Compal is an ODM manufacturer which means the company handles design and manufacturing for retail devices from companies that consumers are familiar with as household names. Compal has produced for Apple, HP, Acer and more and is second only to Quanta in terms of gross PC production. All this to say, it really feels like Chromebook makers are finally moving forward with actually producing a Qualcomm Chromebook. This isn’t conclusive evidence but I think it’s a good sign and a plausible indicator that we could finally, at long last, see a Snapdragon Chromebook sooner than later. Who knows? Maybe 2021 will kick off the year of the ARM Chromebook movement. We’ll see.