The recently surfaced Chromebase reference board referred to as "Kalista" now has its own factory image builder, according to a new commit spotted by Android Headlines in the Chromium Gerrit in code review. While details are still relatively thin on the ground for the Chome OS desktop device in question, that could mean that there will be new Chromebases hitting the market over the several months. In short, the addition of a factory builder means that the Kalista reference board has entered its final phase of testing. From here, developers will essentially go through the OS with a fine-toothed comb looking for discrepancies and problems that may have been missed during development.
Background: Kalista was first seen in the Chromium Gerrit back in September, with the Chrome OS reference board listed as being based on the Fizz baseboard and every indication that no battery or built-in keyboard would be used. That wouldn't be the case for a more typical Chrome OS gadget such as a Chromebook. Subsequent additions to the code confirmed that was the case and indicated that Kalista is a Chromebase. For clarity, Chromebase is the designation given to Chrome OS computers featuring an all-in-one design. That is, all of the components and other hardware are built directly into a monitor that users will connect an external keyboard and mouse to for use as a traditional desktop.
Setting that aside, there actually isn't much information available with regard to what devices will be built on this reference board. Although the new commit indicates that the board is being wrapped up, it is still just a reference board. In all likeliness, that means this is a reference device rather than a consumer model and that manufacturers will be able to use Kalista as a baseline for building their own Chromebase gadgets. Previous entries into the Gerrit suggest that OEMs will be able to choose between a USB Type-C and 'barrel' ports for charging, with the former of those being capable of connecting to accessories or peripherals as well. What's more, the reference design is centered around the use of Intel's 8th-Gen Kaby Lake processors. That should equate to a series of much more powerful, or at least power-efficient, machines than those that have been previously released on the platform. However, it still isn't clear which manufacturers are going to be responsible for Kalista, how much RAM or storage might be backing up the unspecified CPU for a given build, or what any other internal components or specs might be. Moreover, there's no way to know what design or form Kalista might take when computers based on the board are released. All-in-one Chromebase devices have traditionally been encompassed in either a more standard monitor design or something closer to Google's Home Hub smart display.
Impact: Historically, Chromebase devices haven't appeared in the mainstream market and have mostly been used for kiosks or enterprise installations of the OS. However, that doesn't mean that Kalista won't ever make a public appearance. Activity surrounding Chrome OS has picked up significantly over the past several months, with several new top-end Chromebooks announced or launched and Google's own Pixel Slate Chrome OS tablet effectively ratifying a brand new format for Chrome devices to take. So it's possible the family of Chrome OS devices based on Kalista will be used as part of a test to determine the viability of Chromebase devices in the consumer market. If that's the case, more information about the device should be forthcoming in short order.