Yesterday was a really big day in the world of AI. Google finally delivered its latest public-facing AI model – Gemini – and the way it will be intertwined with computing moving forward will likely never be the same. As a multimodal model, Gemini can handle and understand a variety of input types, from images to video to audio and code, making it a tool that has the ability to impact a wide range of user activities in the future as it becomes more and more integrated.
And that integration can happen at different levels thanks to Gemini’s multiple versions. While Gemini Ultra will obviously be a cloud-based service that will be available via Google’s own massive servers, Gemini Nano is built to be on-device, and it could be just the thing we expect to see in Chromebook Plus models in the coming months. While no mention of ChromeOS was made in yesterday’s news, Gemini Nano sounds exactly like what Google’s been talking about with AI on Chromebook Plus.
Why it needs to get here soon
And that brings us to timeline. Google launched Chromebook Plus in early October, and with all the initial excitement, it felt OK for the headlining feature – on-device AI – to come a bit later. But we’re now in the time frame where “a little bit down the road” isn’t going to be good enough soon. There’s no doubt whatsoever that everyone is racing to integrate AI into hardware in every way shape and form, and at an OS level, Google is likely the closest to actually pulling this off in a laptop.
Because of the tight control they have over Chromebook Plus from a hardware standpoint (they only have to deal with a small set of CPUs) and the work that’s been going on for months now to integrate AI features directly into ChromeOS, Google still has a window to deliver the first laptop hardware with AI built in at the core of the experience. But I think that window is closing each and every day.
New market analysis from Canalys predicts PC growth is set to increase by 8% in 2024, a stark difference from the gradual decline we’ve seen since the onset of the pandemic. After 7 straight quarters moving backwards, PC growth is forecasted for 5% growth in Q4 and 8% year-over-year for 2024. That stat includes Chromebooks, and if these predictions are right, there’s likely one reason for the growth potential: AI.
And if that is in fact the case, Google needs to lead the charge with Chromebook Plus. With Qualcomm building AI-centric computing chips, Windows moving forward with Copilot, and Google themselves making massive strides with Gemini, the writing on the wall is pretty clear: on-device AI is going to be a very big deal.
And with what we’ve already heard from Google for Chromebooks, they could strike first at having a laptop OS that integrates AI into common tasks before anyone else does. We’re not talking about a bolted-on assistant or application: ChromeOS’ AI smarts look to be baked right into the OS at a deep level. With Gemini Nano powering things, simpler AI-driven tasks shouldn’t be an issue whatsoever, and simply creating the first line of AI-powered laptops with Chromebook Plus could be a huge boon for them in the consumer market.
But if these features get pushed down the line for months, I fear Chromebooks will be looked at as copycats if Windows or MacOS begin integrating AI first. It’s clear that everything is moving in that direction, and I really would love to see Chromebooks claim this sort of AI ability before any other platform. I think it would be good for users and good for the ecosystem as well, but it just can’t get put off. Google needs to deliver it soon.