Changes recently spotted in the Chromium Gerrit to a Chrome OS gadget called 'Sarien' could point to an incoming series that covers the gamut of Chromebook formats. Sarien was first reported on back in November but the new code implies that it will also be made available in a detachable or tablet configuration.
The commits don't appear to point specifically in one direction or the other but do contain a key alteration to the underlying power architecture that kicks in when there's no keyboard attached. Summarily, under those circumstances, the commits ensure that opening or closing the lid isn't required to put the gadget to sleep or wake it up. That's enabled with a 'bypasser type' referred to in the code as a "tablet_detachable_bypasser."
Not a straightforward change
Early reports about Sarien and its relation to other devices in the Chromium Gerrit as well as some of the language used in linked code changes seem to indicate the change isn't necessarily straightforward. When Sarien was added to the Chromium Gerrit, it was included alongside another device codenamed 'Arcada'. That device was thought to be a consumer level device based on Sarien, with the latter codename referring to a reference board instead of a gadget that would land on the consumer market.
The latest commits don't necessarily refute those early suspicions since comments on the code changes indicate that "some platforms" may not turn on with a simple opening of the device's "lid." Not only does that appear to strengthen the idea that Sarien is a reference board but it may highlight that this is a reference for a range of devices in different formats.
The change, as mentioned above, primarily apply to the power management system and the code could apply to either a tablet or a detachable Chrome OS gadget. The presence of a 'lid' could also indicate that at least one device under Sarien is a standard clamshell or 2-in-1 design, with Sarien intended to hit multiple niches within the Chromebook space.
Other details about the devices that might be included in that are slim but early reports about Arcada have been mixed, with some indication that Intel's latest Whiskey Lake processors would be used. Simultaneously, some code has pointed toward references to Intel's 10nm Cannon Lake series chips. Those have yet to materialize to any significant degree with the exception of a single laptop in the consumer space, but the series is clearly indicated in the documentation.
Competition where there is none
The implication may be that changes to Sarien are to ensure support for numerous hardware configurations, including less common devices such as detachable Chrome OS laptops and Chrome OS tablets. Those could even exist under a single family of devices with different formats to suit different needs.
For the time being, there is only a single device occupying the detachable category and only a handful in the latter category. Most of those Chrome OS devices that are tablets, with the exception of the Google Pixel Slate, are aimed solely at the education sector of the market and aren't readily available to the average consumer.
The sole truly detachable gadget is HP's Chromebook x2, which presently stands uncontested. The Pixel Slate only features a keyboard as a rather expensive accessory add-on rather than as part of the overall hardware package. That means that while manufacturers are clamoring to release a wave of premium Chromebooks in more traditional formats, Sarien-based devices could enter the market with almost no competition.
If speculation about the changes in the code bears out, it might arrive with the versatility to compete with more traditional Chrome OS devices at the same time.