A Chrome OS device referred to in the Chromium Gerrit by the codename ‘Atlas’ has received several minor tweaks and appeared with official Crostini support, suggesting that finalization is near and launch may be imminent. The most telling new sighting of the gadget is in the documentation outlining Chrome OS implementations that support Crostini, which now lists Atlas as having official support as of the current version of its operating system, Chrome 70. On the code review side of things, Googlers have now started tuning the LEDs associated with USB-C charging ports to shine as intended in the chassis all of the associated hardware will be embedded in. Subsequent adjustments to meet expected color hues have been made following testing from the initial configuration indicating that the hardware shell is being finalized. Similar tests and adjustments are being made for the audio playback devices as well. All of those tests seem to imply that Atlas will launch at some point in early 2019.
Background: The codename ‘Atlas’ has been suspected as being associated with an upcoming next-generation Google Pixelbook — tentatively the Pixelbook 2 — since very early this year. Its initial appearance in the Chromium Gerrit was as a near-exact copy of the original 2016 Pixelbook and took all of its cues from the associated code in the repository, listed under the codename ‘eve‘. The primary difference there was that it appeared with references to Intel’s 8th generation Kaby Lake chips. No indication was presented as to precisely which of those chips would be included but, presumably, that would be the higher-end silicon in the series since the following tests of Atlas also pointed to a minimum of 8GB RAM and a 4K display. Up until late 2018, premium devices offering those types of specifications have been few and far in between. Among other clues in the Gerrit, that provided the most evidence of a new Pixelbook under development when the device first appeared under review.
Pixelbook is no longer the only bearer of Chrome OS with top-of-the-line performance and specifications, following this year’s announcement of top-tier devices from Lenovo, Dell, HP, and Acer. Those are now readily available in the consumer market and that might otherwise lead to the conclusion that Atlas is not a new Pixelbook. But there is still plenty of reason to suspect that Atlas points to a new Pixelbook and the new details may add weight to those speculations. Although high-end Chromebooks have now been launched en masse and setting aside the obvious implication of Atlas’s relationship to ‘eve’, another Chrome OS device made by Google has already launched that was directly correlated with Atlas. Developed under the codename ‘Nocturne’, the search giant’s Pixel Slate appeared frequently alongside Atlas in the Gerrit in the same commits and both were joined by their reference board. Google’s tradition so far has also been to release a new piece of Chrome OS hardware in a series every two years and that adds further weight to expectations that Atlas is a Pixelbook and will launch soon. The Pixel Slate is an entirely new series that doesn’t really qualify as a Chromebook since it’s a dedicated tablet rather than a detachable or 2-in-1. So a new Chrome device in a 2-in-1 clamshell design is still predicted to be in the cards and it has been just about two years since the Google Pixelbook was brought to market.
Impact: Since Google’s Chromebooks — and Chrome OS tablets — are meant to be the flagship reference devices for its desktop-like operating system, they are typically launched at high profile events. If it turns out to be the case that Atlas is a new Pixelbook, and there’s every indication that it will be, the earliest upcoming event would be CES 2019. That’s scheduled to begin on January 8. The Google I/O 2019 Developers Conference, which will likely occur just a few months later, may make just as much sense. That’s especially true if Google plans to take its OS beyond Android apps and focus on Linux or Chrome OS as a development platform, although the search giant may choose to plan a dedicated event instead. In any case, the new hardware is nearing completion and should remain under wraps for much longer.
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