Documents submitted to the FCC reveal that Sony is preparing to launch a VAIO laptop with Google’s Chrome OS operating system. The new Chromebook has an 11.6-inch display, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, USB ports, an HDMI output, and SD card slot.
Laptop Reviews, which drew attention to the FCC documents this weekend, believes the system may be powered by an ARM-based processor. They note the documents list the CPU as a T25. That could refer to an NVIDIA Tegra 250 T25, an SoC with a dual-core 1.2GHz Arm Cortex A9. Previous Chromebooks have all used Intel’s Atom CPU.
Samsung and Acer launched the first commercially-available Chromebooks last year after Google conducted a public beta test with its Cr-48 prototype. The products haven’t attracted a lot of attention from consumers, selling in modest numbers. Samsung’s Series 5 Chromebook, which we reviewed last year, currently ranks 27 in Amazon’s bestselling laptop list.
Google has worked to improve the visibility of the platform and increase awareness among consumers. The search giant partnered with Virgin to provide passengers Chromebooks they could use with free WiFi for the duration of their flights. The company also displayed Chromebook advertisements to some Chrome users on the browser’s start page.
Chrome OS is a browser-centric platform that is dominated by Google’s Web browser. The Linux-based operating system’s tight security and stateless computing model offer some compelling advantages, but we found the mediocre user experience disappointing when we put it to the test.
Chrome OS is obviously going to be a non-starter for many people due to the platform’s heavy cloud dependence and lack of support for conventional native applications. But even when evaluating the platform in the context of its strengths and suitability for its target audience, it still fell short. The inflexible environment and simplistic user interface left a lot to be desired.
Some fundamental capabilities were missing, such as the ability to move tabs between windows. Such issues made Chrome OS a poor system for intensive browsing. Google is fortunately working to rectify those issues with an overhaul of the operating system’s user interface.
Google is dropping the fullscreen window model in favor of a more conventional windowing system. The new Chrome OS window manager, which is called Aura, supports overlapping windows. The introduction of Aura will help make the platform feel less constricting and alien to users accustomed to more conventional operating systems.
The Aura environment is still under development, so it’s not yet clear when it will arrive on devices. It’s likely that Google will unveil a roadmap at its I/O conference in June. It’s possible that Sony’s VAIO Chromebook will also be formally announced during the event.