Tech Tuesday: Chrome OS Tablets and What to Expect

With the Asus Chromebook Flip finally rolled out to consumers, the era of the Chrome OS tablet has officially begun. But wait, a Chrome OS tablet? How does it make itself technically different from an Android tablet? Here are a few pointers that would give hints as to how you should see them in future models and [iterations].

Desktop to desktop, tablet to tablet In concept, the visual environment and default interface of the Chrome OS on a touchscreen might feel very similar to early Windows 7–based tablets. It’s not too difficult to access, but then again it’s not very intuitive either. However, the Asus Chromebook Flip completely turns this idea around, with a few tweaks that resemble the touch-optimized interfaces of current operating systems and their updates.

First is the window access switch mode, which enables window switching using separate touch tabs, much like how you do it on an Android tablet. The second is the obligatory virtual keyboard, which is typically universal for all touchscreen devices today. Both of these features are automatically activated or deactivated on the unit, which makes for an intuitive access change option whenever you want to switch modes during work.

Now, these features aren’t revolutionary or integral in any way to the Chromebook itself. The feature is more or less treated as a convenience option, to remove the hurdles and the awkward interfacing that users have encountered before on non-touch optimized operating systems (Windows 7). However, it is conceivable that future Chrome OS tablets would share a similar feature as it more becomes developed and released. Yes, the OS itself is not designed for touch optimization by default, but with Android as its present model, tweaks here and there could make the features more natural to the system. Then, would these features eventually become integral to the Chrome OS? Perhaps, if (and only if) these 2-in-1 Chromebooks become popular enough to support the concept.

Chrome extensions on touchscreens While the idea of modifying the Chrome OS permanently for touch optimization is, at best, a conceivable guess, what we do know about this is that Chrome apps and extensions that have similar versions in Android would be more or less usable or playable (for games) in the same manner. Parking Mania for Chrome on a touchscreen, anyone? You’ll probably even have a bigger blast using the Chrome versions of your favorite apps on a Chrome OS tab than on a Windows 8 tab. Or maybe not.

In all seriousness, even Chrome OS apps that you’ve never even thought about accessing on a touchscreen can now be used with a touchscreen. Think about sliding those tabs and doing those image touch ups on Polarr using a stylus, for instance. The experience has the potential to feel completely different. Okay, maybe it won’t be that great for each and every productivity app, add-on, or extension, but you probably get the concept already. All of this makes one think whether Google is planning to introduce touch-optimized Chrome OS apps and extensions shortly. Do you think the idea of a “Chrome OS tablet” will stay? Or will it fall into mediocrity, like many other 2-in-1 hybrids out there? Regardless, new users of these products are in for a different usage experience, detached from both a normal Chromebook and an average Android tablet.

Christian Crisostomo
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