Will we soon see our first Chrome OS tablet? We'll find out in April

Will we soon see our first Chrome OS tablet? We'll find out in April

Summary: An Acer event at the end of April may signal the unveiling of the world's first Chrome OS-powered tablet. Could it give the platform the push it needs to be a success?

TOPICS: Tablets, Google
(Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

All eyes are on Acer as a possible contender to release the world's first Chrome OS-powered tablet, which could make its first appearance at the company's launch of its annual global product line-up later this month.

An event invite landed in ZDNet's inbox last week signalling the unveiling of the company's hardware and mobile offerings by new Acer chief executive Jason Chen. 

In a somewhat mysterious fashion, the invite read, "A touch more connected."

Well, that's probably a strong hint at a tablet, then.

It's little surprise, considering Acer has struggled in recent years to gain traction in the still competitive yet dwindling PC market. Currently placed four in the top five PC manufacturers, based on IDC's latest quarterly data, its PC business represents about 6.7 percent of the overall market — down by 21 percent year-over-year on the calendar fourth-quarter.

It's Chromebook efforts are valiant, and doing well — if recent research is to be believed, as Acer takes a hearty slice of the 2.1 million Chromebooks shipped in 2013.

With PCs on the decline and tablets on the rise, merging what Acer has in its Chromebook offering with a tablet could not only help give the Taiwanese computer giant a much-needed second wind, but also further bump Chrome OS' name in the highly competitive tablet market.

"We need to dig ourselves out of a hole." — Acer chief executive Jason Chen

There's a growing amount of evidence (and hintery) from Chen, who joined the company after fiscal third-quarter losses of $446 million for the June-September quarter.

He said just two weeks later, "We need to dig ourselves out of a hole," citing poor early investments in touch-panels, ultrabooks, and underestimating the threat from tablets on the PC industry. He also said he wants to be a cloud computing player, but noted it's not driving sales.

A short term-ish solution could be finding that sweet spot between the cloud, touch devices, and Chromebooks — all of which can be found in a yet-to-be revealed Chrome OS-powered tablet.

Don't worry about the name. Google has branded Chromebooks as Chrome OS-powered notebooks, and it has the Asus-made compact desktop, dubbed the Chromebox, and even the media streaming Chromecast.

Chrome OS remains the current underdog in the operating system market, compared to Windows, OS X, and iOS. But it's gaining traction. The Google-developed platform reportedly has just 0.2 percent of all North American web traffic, but that's double what it was five months prior. 

But it's a key operating system for those wanting to break away from the traditional platforms.

Unlike Android, a mobile and tablet platform, Chrome OS runs on all platforms — mobile, desktop, and potentially tablet. It just hasn't reached the tablet form-factor yet. And don't be fooled by Lenovo's convertible Chrome OS-powered part-tablet, part-notebook. That doesn't count, and it's designed for a niche education market and not yet available.

ZDNet will be at the Acer event on April 29 where we will have more. Sister-site CNET will also live blog the event. Details to come in the coming couple of weeks. 

Topics: Tablets, Google

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  • No not yet

    Unless Google have something staggering up their sleeve, no.
    Just dumping ChromeOS on a tablet isn't likely to persuade many to abandon Android.
    It's designed for keyboard and mouse input, and isn't very touch friendly.
    Not to mention the massive app gap to Android.
    And I like Chrome......
    • Unless Android Apps

      can run naitely in Chrome, then it would be a game changer
      • Well the reverse is already possible

        Chrome runs natively and Android. So, I'm not so sure what's game changing about anything to do with Chrome OS.

        It's a Web browser, and that's all it is.
        x I'm tc
        • It would be a game changer only for Google

          the ability to lock a user with the Google ecosystem to greater degree.

          As it sits now you can get an Android tablet and never really have to use Google for anything.
          • defaults =/= lock in

            It's not difficult, if one wanted, to configure a Chromebook to use Bing for search, and OneDrive for online word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. A gmail account is only required for signing in, similar to how Windows 8 requires a MSFT account to sign in unless one is willing to jump through all the hoops necessary to use local accounts.

            Locally managed accounts are under development. When they make it to the standard build, only the owner account would need a gmail account.

            You've never even touched a Chromebook, have you?
          • @hrlngrv

            You'll find most of the commentators on Chromebook articles have never used a Chromebook..........
          • I try, and actually use, as much as possible as I have a need to

            how else are we going to find what works best for our people at work?

            Right now, Android gives you more then the Chrometablet would, or do you disagree?
          • Nobody "Microsoft's it"

            But they do Google it.
            Alan Smithie
          • No, they "Bing it" to be honest, Alan

            if you're going to comment on something, maybe try it once?

            I'm guessing you haven't as you had the terminology all wrong....

        • Chrome on Android is limited

          No app or extension support limits it.
          On android, it is just a browser. Hence all the separate Google services apps that are needed.
  • Chrome vs Android

    Chrome OS can't compete with Android. It's at best head to head with Windows RT. Time to focus on Android for desktop, not Chrome OS for tablets.
    • Android isn't very good on the desktop

      Chrome is actually better at the moment.
      Android could be OK, but would need a big overhaul to make it keyboard and mouse friendly.
      And get all apps available in windowed mode. All possible, but not there yet.
      • its better than you'd think

        I've done it (with Android x86.) It works fine with a mouse and keyboard. The big problem was not any of that, it was the constant power management battery saving efforts. You really notice when your computer keeps napping, in a way that you don't when it is a phone.
        • I didn't think it was good.

          Coming from windows, no right click available, long press and dragging didn't seem very natural all over the place. Forced full screen and wasted (on a desktop) screen real estate.
          It's mitigated with a scroll mouse in places, but not brilliant.
          Having said that, a number of those complaints are common with Metro Apps, which is probably why I don't use any of these on the desktop either. :)
  • Acer and Chrome belond together

    An awful operating system on awful hardware. They belong together.
  • Underwhelming!!

    a tablet running a PC-optimized OS that can't run any apps. Yeah, that sounds exciting.

    Given the Nexus 7 can run full Chrome, why again would anyone but this? That makes it like a tiny subset of Android....
    • Given the Nexus 7 can run full Chrome

      It's a fairly limited version of chrome. Missing all the extension, app, and native client support at present.
  • Two problems with this

    Acer generally shows their worst when they try to be first with anything. They are just to sloppy and cut to many corners in their rush to be first.

    Second, in response to the authors statement of
    "Unlike Android, a mobile and tablet platform, Chrome OS runs on all platforms — mobile, desktop, and potentially tablet."

    Ummm.... Android can run just fine on mobile, tablets and desktops. It just doesn't make a great desktop operating system, so it has not found much traction there, but it is most certainly capable of running on just about anything.
    That seems to be the same place Chrome is at. How well will it run on tablets, phones or "mobile", especially compared to how Android does already.

    Seems rather at odds for Google to be pushing both operating systems across the same devices, but they seem to enjoy the fragmentation of their operating systems.
  • Chrome OS on a Tablet

    I enjoy my Samsung Chromebook that I have been using since April of 2013. It is everything I need in a light-weight laptop. However, my arthritis is even getting difficult for me to lift this device and a tablet running Chrome OS would be my next connected device. As of today, Acer still hasn't developed a unit. Hope some company does -- soon.