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

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?
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
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. 

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