We’ve seen a report that Intel is planning to work with several manufacturers and release two in one, 2-in-1, Chromebooks in the coming months. The rumors point towards Intel working with Google, Asustek Computer (Asus), Acer, Hewlett Packard (HP), Lenovo, Quanta Computer and Pegatron Technology. The source article describes these rumors as stemming from the upstream supply chain, in other words, other component manufacturers. The branded manufacturers are set to initially focus on releasing 2-in-1 Chromebooks in the 11-inch to 13-inch size, but may look to releasing large models in due course. These models are set to be targeted towards the North American education market, where computers for students must include a keyboard, but would quickly be expanded into the Eastern European, Latin American and Southeast Asia regions.
2-in-1 laptop computers are a blend of tablet and laptop, similar in a sense to the Asus Transformer line of Android and Windows convertible tablets. When the keyboard is attached, the device becomes a competent laptop style computer complete with a keyboard, but when it is more convenient, the keyboard may be removed and the device becomes a tablet. This gives the advantage that the computer is more portable, being thinner and lighter. Tablet devices are more suited to media consumption whereas laptops are more suited to content creation: 2-in-1 devices might represent the ideal combination of the two design compromises! However, 2-in-1s introduce their own compromises including the strength and durability of the hinge, plus the design needs to be carefully considered to avoid the laptop feeling top heavy in use. We’ve seen manufacturers such as Asus install batteries into the keyboard side of the convertible to both boost battery life and weigh the base down. These convertible Chromebooks will also need a touchscreen to be usable in tablet mode.
Intel have already announced their new Intel Atom processor and naming convention and has plans to release Braswell-based processors, both Pentium and Celeron branded, in the third quarter. Newer, 14nm die size Skylake-based processors should be arriving before the end of the year and the Chromebook manufacturers are expected to adopt the newer generation processors. And the new convertible form factor will make Chromebooks even more competitive with the Windows market, except the supply chain is expecting the 2-in-1 Chromebooks to be around 10% cheaper than similar specification Windows convertibles.