Chrome OS devices previously expected to arrive running Intel's Cannon Lake CPUs may now be completely reworked with new processors, based on recently spotted changes in the Chromium Gerrit. The changes primarily seem to stem from code pertaining to a device codenamed "Meowth" and its reference board "Zoombini." In fact, the team behind development on that device appears to be removing repositories linking that Cannon Lake-based reference board from Meowth wholesale following the removal of a reference to Cannon Lake earlier this year.
Background: Meowth had been speculated to be a tie-in to a more powerful variant of Google Pixel Slate or another Google-branded Chrome OS device. The former of those is a Chrome tablet that was announced near the beginning of October and will begin shipping to customers in December. At the time of that announcement, Intel had still not finalized work on its 10nm Cannon Lake chips in spite of the initial expectation that it would launch way back in 2016. Whether the speculation about Meowth was accurate or not, no version of the Google Pixel Slate has ever been revealed with that chipset onboard. Instead, the Pixel Slate utilizes 8th-Gen Intel Core processors based on the Kaby Lake architecture. Intel has made several press announcements about Cannon Lake since 2018 began but that hasn't stopped rumors from spreading that the project had been canceled.
The chipmaker has denied those rumors outright but work has also been underway on new chips that were intended to follow Cannon Lake in the meantime. One example of that is a 10nm range of chips under the Intel codename Ice Lake. The removal of the Zoombini-based Meowth's code from the Chromium Gerrit was accompanied by the addition of another reference board dubbed "Dragonegg" has now appeared based on that CPU. That's led to some speculation that Meowth and other devices have and will be abandoned in favor of Intel's next-generation chips under new codenames. That doesn't seem to be entirely likely at this point since other devices that were thought to be based on the chips still appear in the Gerrit and haven't been removed. One such device, codenamed "Arcada" and built on a new "Sarien" reference board, appears to still be based on the platform for example. That Chrome OS gadget is expected to launch with the additional benefit of NVMe storage.
Impact: Intel's Ice Lake CPUs aren't presently expected to launch until some time in 2020, leaving plenty of time for any Chrome OS manufacturers who want to make use of the processors to build out their devices. Given the number of delays Cannon Lake has been subject to, it may make some sense for some Chrome OS devices to be reworked for a later chip. That's especially true if the launch of a chip is expected to be close to that of its predecessor and where high-end devices are concerned since waiting provides a more attractive value for consumers. The move would also make far less sense for manufacturers who release new models of Chrome OS hardware on a more frequent basis. In effect, devices based on the long-awaited CPUs could act as a stop gap between launches — if Intel hasn't abandoned Cannon Lake altogether.