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Google’s(s goog) Nexus phone got a refresh in October while its Nexus 7 tablet was upgraded with new hardware in July. Oddly, the company’s Nexus 10 Android tablet is still the same old model as last year. There have been rumors and leaks on an upgraded Nexus 10, but Google continues to sell the 2012 edition.
This past weekend, John Freml pondered why this is on the Pocketables blog and raised an interesting question: What if the next Nexus 10 actually runs Chrome OS and not Android?
Freml raises some good points. Android appears far more successful on smaller, rather than larger tablets, for a number of reasons. With some exceptions, Android apps don’t always translate well on big screens. And smaller tablets are typically priced lower; $229 buys a well-equipped Nexus 7 tablet for example.
Although I use a Chromebook Pixel full-time as my primary computer, I’ve longed for a Chrome OS tablet for months. Obviously, the lack of a Nexus 10 tablet upgrade doesn’t mean that Google will create one. But there’s additional evidence to support the possibility.
Back in April we saw the beginnings of an on-screen, software keyboard in Chrome OS. Since then, that keyboard has been steadily improving. This can’t just be a coding experiment for Google. It wouldn’t create a touch keyboard unless there can or will be devices that can use it.
I could use that software keyboard on my Chromebook Pixel, but there’s little point given the laptop has an excellent hardware keyboard: The form-factor simply doesn’t lend itself to an on-screen keyboard. But a tablet or hybrid touchscreen device would benefit from such an input method. As an aside, it was reported previously that Asus would be making the next Nexus 10; that’s the same company that makes the hybrid Transformer tablets with keyboard docks.
What would make a Chrome OS tablet compelling? For some, it won’t be; those that think Chrome OS is “just a browser” aren’t going to change their minds because it comes on a tablet.
As a Chromebook user, however, I’d like the full desktop browsing experience found in Chrome. Yes, the mobile version of Chrome is pretty capable, but it’s not quite the same when it comes to capabilities and the experience. Google could also use the device to help push forward the “touchable web”; something it started with the Chromebook Pixel.
Freml thinks Google could combine Chrome OS and Android a bit by including support for Android apps. Others have thought the same, including myself at one point. I no longer think that’s going to happen, at least not in a simplistic way. Instead, I foresee Google bridging the two through services and common application frameworks for cross-platform use. And I can think of no better device for that than a tablet.