Although Google is reportedly merging Honeycomb, Gingerbread and Google TV into one Android OS dubbed "Ice Cream," a recent discovery shows that Google is also building a tablet version of Chrome OS. The revelation is based on evidence left behind in the March and April source code for both the Chrome browser and Chrome OS.
According to CNET, the "user-agent string" text listing within the source includes the term "CrOS Touch." A virtual keyboard, also shown featuring numerous keys, is drawn in SVG for displaying within a browser. The actual browser layout itself is reportedly more touch-friendly, giving room for fingers. There's also a revamped new-tab page reportedly "optimized for touch" that will change from landscape to portrait, depending on the device orientation.
The news is somewhat surprising given that the company already has a tablet-oriented OS. Then again, we saw signs of Chrome OS for tablets as far back as last year in leaked mock-ups (seen right). According to CNET, Google has actually acknowledged that Chrome OS for tablets is in development, but wouldn't go into details.
"We are engaging in early open-source work for the tablet form factor, but we have nothing new to announce at this time," the company said, adding that Chrome OS for tablets isn't a priority. "Chrome OS was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of form factors. We expect to see different partners build different kinds of devices based on Chrome OS, but for this initial release we are targeting the notebook form factor."
So what will this mean for consumers? Given that Google's Chrome browser and OS already support web-based apps, the difference between an Android OS tablet and a Chrome OS tablet will be that one offers rich, localized features whereas the other is strictly cloud-based. That means there should be a huge difference in the overall tablet price.
But netbooks with Chrome OS pre-installed aren't slated to launch until sometime this summer. That means consumers shouldn't expect to see tablets with the customized OS any time soon considering it's not one of Google's top priorities. Still, it will be interesting to see how Android and Chrome tablets will coincide on the market whenever the latter products are released.
We expect to hear more about Google OS for tablets during Google I/O 2011 next month.