Google is looking to make the tablet experience on Chrome OS much better beginning in version 72 with a new 'Request tablet site' option recently spotted in the operating system's Dev Channel by ChromeUnboxed. As its name implies, the feature is similar to the current 'Desktop site' option found on mobile devices and tablets but functions in the opposite direction. With the new mode turned on, the interface appears more filled out with less white space wasted and elements of a page scaled up for a more touch-friendly experience. The appearance of a tablet mode in the beta-oriented Dev Channel should indicate that it will arrive with Chrome OS 72. That's set to arrive on January 29 but updates have historically shipped first to desktop iterations of the browser, followed by mobile versions. Chrome OS users will most likely start seeing the option appear on their end within a week or two from the new version's launch.
Beyond scaled up for the incoming wave
The newest Chrome OS feature follows a few others that have been implemented since just before and after Google first announced its own tablet, the Google Pixel Slate, on the platform. Of those that have been designed more directly for the tablet hardware format is one that changed how UI appeared or disappeared when using a tablet or on devices with a 2-in-one design. That was initially spotted behind a hidden flag setting and set the top bar of the browser to move out of the way when scrolling in a tablet orientation similar to how it is removed on Android. The search giant has also worked to make the system UI more manageable in tablet mode, instituting swipe gestures for accessing the app launcher and shelf when the user chooses to hide that while apps or the browser is at the forefront.
That's all in support of what is currently just three Chrome OS tablets, including one that is a detachable rather than a dedicated tablet. For now, the only devices that really need these types of improvements include the Google Pixel Slate, Acer Chromebook Tab 10, and HP's Chromebook x2. But there are other Chrome OS tablets expected over the course of the next year now that Google has officially sponsored that form factor for the platform. Among those is at least one ASUS gadget that is predicted to reside in the 10-inch category, making it a prime candidate for these incoming changes. The still-unnamed device is expected to be announced at a minimum during CES 2019, which runs from January 8 through January 12. That means it should land in consumers' hands just in time to take full advantage of the new feature and whatever other features Google gets finalized in the meantime.
Getting better but not quite there yet
Chrome OS is still not really ready for primetime in terms of tablets or even 2-in-1 convertibles and the newest feature won't necessarily make everything immediately better. To begin with, even though the platform supports Android apps, the overwhelming majority of those simply don't work with large screens or don't work properly if they can be installed and run. Instead, they operate like scaled up Android apps. A similar issue is likely to be seen in the new 'Request tablet site' feature since everything is basically just being resized to make tap and swipe interactions easier. Web pages will suffer the same problem to a lesser degree. Most web developers have long-since moved to make sure that sites adapt to fit different experiences but that's generally driven by screen size rather than which hardware platform is in use. The new Chrome OS feature is also going to be new enough that it will take time before most sites are going to respond properly when switched into tablet mode.