Is Google actually making a touchscreen Chromebook?

Chromebook Pixel

If you've read any tech news lately, odds are you've heard about the "Chromebook Pixel" -- a mythical Google-made device that was "outed" in an oddly "leaked" video last week.

It's hard to talk about the "Chromebook Pixel" without using lots of quotation marks. (I like to think of them as heavily emphasized air quotes being acted out in my brain.) The reason? Simple: We don't know that the thing actually exists. And the circumstances surrounding last week's "leak" are looking increasingly peculiar.

I already put together a list of reasons to be skeptical about the Chromebook Pixel video. Long story short, the company behind the "leak" in no way appears to be a Google-endorsed marketing firm, and its CEO -- despite his insistence that he's a former Google employee hired by Google to work on official product videos -- conducts himself in a way that almost makes you think he's trying to raise suspicion.

Following my report, CNET's Casey Newton did some additional digging and uncovered even more things that make you go "hmm." The guy connected to the video, Newton discovered, has no record of ever having worked for Google. What's more, his explanations for the discrepancies in his tale are both odd and inconsistent -- and his actions following the alleged "leak" seem aimed more at bringing attention to his company than containing any type of "top-secret" information.

But let's forget all of that for a moment. Whether or not it's called the "Chromebook Pixel," is it actually possible that Google is working on some sort of high-resolution touchscreen Chromebook?

As it turns out, yes.

Rumors of a touch-enabled Chromebook have been floating around the Web for years. As far back as 2011, developers were finding signs of touch-oriented elements in Google's open source Chromium code.

Chromebook Light Bar

More recently, keen-eyed code sleuths have found references to a developmental Google Chrome OS device known internally as "Link." Documentation suggests the device has a backlit keyboard as well as a light-bar that flashes different colors based on the system's state -- features that do match up with the product shown in last week's video.

Tucked away in the Chrome OS code is also a way to enable high-resolution screenshots -- something that wouldn't do much good on the current crop of Chrome OS devices but could certainly be useful on a higher-res model.

Many of these discoveries have come by way of François Beaufort, a developer who closely watches Chrome OS code and has a solid track record of sharing reliable information. Beaufort says the "Chromebook Pixel" video may be "just a concept," but he is certain the Google Chrome team is working on a touch-enabled device that "looks like" the one depicted in the clip. (How he is so certain of this remains a mystery.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: There is every reason to be skeptical about the "Chromebook Pixel" video that appeared online last week. The situation surrounding that saga is about as strange and unconvincing as they get.

But beyond all the silliness, there is reason to believe Google's at least working on something that involves Chrome OS within a high-resolution, touch-enabled environment. What any device would actually be called and what it'd look like if it were released are things only time will tell. Remember, companies often develop products internally that never see the light of day or are merely testing beds for something else entirely. At this point, we simply don't know.

It's worth keeping an eye on, though. Chrome OS is finally reaching a level of maturity that paves the way for it to take off, and the people behind the platform are clearly prepping it for different types of flight.

Android Power Twitter

One way or another, it's only a matter of time before someone -- be it Google or a third-party manufacturer -- embraces that potential and brings something new our way.

UPDATE: Chromebook Pixel: Would you pay $1300 for a cloud-centric laptop?

FREE Computerworld Insider Guide: Five IT certifications that won’t break you
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies