According to commits posted on the Chromium's Gerrit source code management, two upcoming Chromebooks codenamed 'Ekko' and 'Bard' will come with fingerprint support and numeric keypads. These devices were first spotted over six months back in the Chromium repository. Previously, it was being assumed that fingerprint support might remain exclusive to Pixel Slate for a while.
Although support for fingerprint readers was added to Chrome OS more than two years ago, only Google Pixel Slate currently come with a fingerprint scanner. However, if the new commit is to go by, high-end Chromebooks will also come equipped with fingerprint sensors in the future. Apparently, 'Ekko' and 'Bard' will borrow the required hardware and software from Pixel Slate.
A series of commits posted this month have revealed where the fingerprint sensors will be placed on the Ekko and Bard Chromebooks. It has been depicted in an image posted alongside the commit. The picture basically shows the setup graphic for the fingerprint reader. The commits also detail how the fingerprint reader would be used. The fingerprint reader has been placed beneath the right side of the keyboard, and the setup is reminiscent of fingerprint sensors on some Windows devices.
The setup image has also revealed that the upcoming Chromebooks might also come with a numeric keypad. Currently, Chromebooks do not come with a numeric keypad and this is one thing that holds back many people from switching to Chromebook. Users currently make do with USB numeric keypads, which are pretty affordable and can easily be plugged in. A few weeks ago, it was reported that Chrome OS is adding support for numeric keypads and now the setup image has revealed that Ekko and Bard might come with one.
Since Ekko and Bard have usually been spotted in the same lines of code, it is plausible that both will be made by the same company. Many of the commits related to Ekko and Bard were posted by Quanta Corp developers, who usually work on Acer Chromebooks so Acer could be the company behind the duo. However, this doesn't rule out the possibility that some other manufacturer could be behind them.
As for when Ekko and Bard would be unveiled, we might see them during Google's Cloud Next event, which will take place in April in San Francisco. The event attracts IT professionals, developers, and executives and thus it could be a great opportunity to present the new Chromebooks. Even if the devices are not introduced during Cloud Next, they will most likely be released in a few months.
Per previous reports, Ekko and Bard will come with Intel's eight-generation 14nm Kaby Lake processors. Ekko and Bard might be released as Acer Chromebook 13 and Spin 13 eventually. Other details are sparse at the event, with some publications speculating that the duo could have a clamshell design.
In the last few years, Chromebooks have slowly been increasing in popularity because of their lightweight and affordability. Adding new features could help Google increase its market share. With more OEMs making Chromebooks, there could be even greater choices and competition in the market in the future.