Fleeting Chrome OS Tablet

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You have to ask yourself are we really lacking Chromebook choices or Chromebook designs? All of the major manufacturers including HP, Acer, ASUS, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung have Chromebook products. Designs range from traditional clamshell, ruggedized educational models, to foldable 2-in-1s. Prices begin as low as $200 with stops all along the way to $1,100 for the beefy Intel 6th gen i7 models. Available perks include high definition displays, stylus pens, backlit keyboards, expansive storage, and powerful processors. Admittedly, not every manufacturer has a product which includes all of these features and there is always the possibility the device with the desired mix may exceed your budget.

Can a tablet be your primary computing device?

Apple and Microsoft feel this is true. BGR states the 2017 iPad Pro model is nearly as powerful as the brand-new MacBook Pro, but adds the following caveat.

Can the iPad Pro replace the MacBook Pro? No, we’re not quite there yet. Apple’s best tablet can’t do all the things Apple’s best laptop does. Or better said, iOS is still trailing behind macOS at satisfying some of the Pro needs — though iOS 11 brings a lot of exciting features to the iPad.

Microsoft doesn’t have this problem as the new Surface Laptop and the Surface Pro can run Windows 10. The Verge states the Surface Pro has always stood for what MicroSoft believes is the future of personal computing. Originally billed as “the tablet that can replace your laptop”, it lives in a space bordered by mobile and desktop.

Within Microsoft’s own lineup, the Surface Pro has been joined by the more powerful Surface Book, the more stationary Surface Studio, and most recently, the more traditional Surface Laptop. If anything, the new Pro shows that Microsoft is committed to this idea and design. This is what a Surface looks like and likely will look like for the foreseeable future.

Chrome OS Android Conundrum

Google’s vision may be as clear as Microsoft and Apple, but it has struggled to find a way to bring singularity to its computing environment. We’ve heard it all before; totally new OS versus adding Chrome OS features to Android, or allowing Android apps to run on Chrome OS. The decision was finalized a little over a year ago with the announcement Chromebooks would support Android apps out of the box and raising the possibility of Chrome OS expanding to other devices. The path has not been easy. According to Android Central the following is the very short list of Chromebooks which support Android apps in the stable channel as of today.

  • Acer Chromebook R11
  • Acer Chromebook Spin 11
  • AOpen Chromebook Mini
  • ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA
  • ASUS Chromebook Flip C213
  • Google Chromebook Pixel (2015)
  • Samsung Chromebook Plus
  • Samsung Chromebook Pro

Why the delay, what’s the problem?

  1. App design and usability on a larger device. Most Android apps are written to run on a cell phone.
  2. Mixed core technologies such as ARM versus Intel processors. Nearly all phones use ARM processors.
  3. Dissimilar hardware environments. Chromebooks may lack hardware or have hardware not found in a cell phone.

Shrout Research tested the performance of Android apps on the R13 and the R11 Acer Chromebooks. Not twins like the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro, but it is safe to say their primarily difference is the processor. Specifically, the R13 uses the Mediatek M81732C ARM processor (octane 8200) while the R11 uses the Intel Celeron N3060 processor (octane 10273).

The test consisted of installing and running selected Android apps from the Google Play Store and observing their usability in terms of startup time, operational issues, and stability.

Application ARM Intel Comments
Gaming Tests
Candy Crush Saga Good Poor Intel showed significant stutter
Mortal Kombat X Good Very bad Intel showed mass image corruption
Minecraft story mode Very good Very bad Intel wouldn’t load game completely
Game of War Good Good
Mobile Strike Very good Very good
Angry Birds 2 Very good Good
Social Media Tests
Facebook messenger Good Poor Intel crashed, orientation bug
Pinterest Very good Poor Intel showed stutter and slow scrolling
Snapchat Good Very Good
Twitter Very good Very Good
Instagram Very good Very Good
Productivity Tests
Google Maps Good Very good ARM showed slower load times of application data
Google Earth Very good Good Intel stuttered during application swaps
Evernote Very good Good Intel load times were longer
Google Sheets Very good Good Intel load times on filled sheets 5x longer
Drop box Very good Very good
Media Streaming Tests
Netflix Very good Very good
Directv Now Good Good
Skype Very good Very good
Source: Shrout Research May 22, 2017

The lonely Pixel C

Let’s not forget Google’s only tablet the Pixel C. The Pixel C released a little over two years ago was the response to Microsoft and Apple tablets. It’s hard to guess what aspirations Google had for the Pixel C, but the fact there hasn’t been a follow up device in over two years speaks volumes. The complaints for the device are few.

  1. Limitations of Android (ie. usability of Android apps on larger screen)
  2. No trackpad on the keyboard accessory
  3. Unattaching the keyboard from the tablet can be awkward
  4. Some issues with sticking keys

Eve Development Board

The life of a Chromebook or tablet begins with a development board. Recent news of a development board receiving some attention is named “Eve”. It is difficult to deduce the importance or reason for the names given to development boards. In the case of the new Pixel phones the development systems are named after fish. In the case of Eve, I assume it is a reference to Adam and Eve as described in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible. The Bible states Eve was created by taking her from the rib of Adam, to be Adam’s companion.

Applying the metaphor I can certainly argue Eve will be an evolution to a product already in existence which started life with a masculine name. It happens the development board of the Pixel C is named “Ryu”, a male warrior from the Street Fighter game.

Wrap up

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Autodesk Sketchbook

Putting the metaphors aside, it makes sense for Google to take a leadership role and introduce a high end feature rich Chrome OS tablet to compete against the Microsoft Surface Pro and the Apple iPad Pro. The reality of today’s market is tablets aren’t dead, they’re just different.

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