It’s taking Google (NSDQ: GOOG) much longer than expected to release the Chrome OS netbooks it promised a few years ago, but in the meantime it’s taking a stab at adapting the Web-based operating system for the current darling of the mobile market: the tablet.
CNET notes that a review of the most recent source-code updates to the project reveal that Google has added several touchscreen-friendly features to Chrome OS, such as a virtual keyboard and code that tells Web sites optimized for tablets to send the tablet-friendly version of their page over to a Chrome OS tablet. We’ve known that Google has been thinking about adapting Chrome OS for devices other than netbooks for some time, but it’s still planning to target the netbook with the first production versions of the operating system, according to a statement it provided to CNET.
Just a few years ago when the Chrome OS project was conceived netbooks were all the rage, but sales of the small laptops are declining as consumers show more interest in tablets. As such, it may make more sense for Google to hedge its bets by making sure it has a version of the software that runs on the hardware most in demand. However, Google has also spoken quite a bit about Chrome OS as an enterprise product, an area in which it still might make more sense to equip workers with keyboard-based devices as opposed to tablets.
The first Chrome OS netbooks are expected this summer, at which point we’ll finally get to see how Google plans to balance its mobile interests with both Chrome OS and Android products out in the wild.