There’s an interesting movement in the world of Chrome OS and it doesn’t all have to do with software. Just like many new Windows devices, more new form-factors, shapes and sizes are popping up. Take LG’s Chromebase, for example: It’s exactly what I’d expect if my iMac had an affair with a Chromebox.
LG officially previewed the all-in-one device in a press release on Wednesday, sharing most, but not all of the details. The company says it will show off the Chromebase at the Consumer Electronics Show next month. The unit looks like a sleek desktop — the computing guts are behind the 21.5-inch monitor — with a 1920 x 1080 IPS display that runs Google’s Chrome OS. The device has 2 GB of memory, a fourth-generation Intel Celeron chip, keyboard, mouse, multiple USB ports and an HDMI input jack to use the Chromebase as a monitor for another device. Pricing has not been announced.
Clearly, LG is betting on the future of Chrome, much like other device makers. This press release quote from Hyoung-sei Park, head of the IT Business Division at LG Electronics, exemplifies as much: “LG Chromebase is the wave of the future for desktops, expected to be widely adopted not only at home, but especially in schools, hotels, call centers and other business settings.”
Forget the future for a second though. What’s going on right now? Well, traditional PC sales are stagnant at best, falling by 10 percent this year and down to 2008 levels at worst. Tablet sales are up and PC makers are trying to bridge the gap with new form-factors that bring both a tablet and PC experience. In some cases, these ideas and products have merit. The point is: Windows devices are now available in more shapes and sizes than ever before as device makers try to drudge up interest in the product.
There’s a similar trend in Chrome OS too, though. We’ve gone from just one or two device makers to more than a half-dozen; all of which are also Microsoft Windows partners: Acer, Dell, HP and Samsung, with Asus and Toshiba on the way. These companies are at the very least hedging their bets against falling PC sales. And at best, some, such as LG, think that there’s a future for simple computing through a browser-based platform that doesn’t come with as much overhead as a traditional computer.
The newest Chrome OS devices aren’t simply cookie-cutter machines either. We’re moving away from the same-old 11.6-inch screen on a Chrome OS laptop to see 14-inch devices from HP and now to a 21.5-inch all-in-one from LG. I suspect that’s just the beginning of more variety. And I’m not waiting for potential Chrome OS tablets; I’ve been testing my own of sorts, first using an Asus Transformer T100 and now a Surface Pro 2 to run a Chrome OS-like environment on the slate.
It’s also worth a mention that Google has been building and bettering an on-screen keyboard for the Chrome OS. The company hasn’t announced any tablet plans for the platform, but if the software bits are there, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a device maker give it a go.
Ultimately, folks who need to run Windows apps are going to buy Windows computers; as they should. As web technologies mature and people get their app fixes on smartphones and tablets, however, the door opens wider for computing alternatives. Fancy form-factors might give the overall PC market a needed boost, but it’s clear that those same PC makers can tweak the look and feel of Chrome OS devices just as much.