A new Chromebook board called "Krane" has now been added to the Chromium Gerrit in apparent preparation for a new run of devices to take on the likes of AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm, based on details spotted by Chrome Unboxed.
The new device is closely related to the "Kukui" board that was initially spotted in the middle of 2018 — leaving plenty of time for development to advance. Based on tests for the underlying hardware, that means it's built around MediaTek's powerful octa-core chip, the MT8183. For reference that SoC features four ARM Cortex A73 cores clocked at up to 1.99 GHz with four more power-efficient Arm Cortex A53 cores.
The cores aren't the only thing that stands out about that particular component either. It can additionally be coupled with the still-underused but more efficient LPDDR4x memory.
MediaTek takes on the A-team
Testing of MediaTek's MT 8183 chipset in Chrome OS is, as indicated above, not necessarily a new development but Krane does seem to take things further since it is more likely to be a consumer device than another reference board. Development is taking place at a quick clip, with no fewer than six new commits dedicated and half of those merged within the past 24-hours as of this writing.
That means it shouldn't be too long before Krane begins to break cover and more details emerge but the question of which niche it is supposed to fill remains.
Among the most recently released Chromebooks and the most recent configurations spotted in the Chromium code repository, there are at least a couple of contenders Krane is likely meant to address. The most obvious of those is the still-unannounced Snapdragon-powered Chromebook dubbed Cheza.
That gadget has been stewing away in the Gerrit for a couple of years now with very few new details emerging over the past several months but that's probably due to the expectation that it will launch in Q2 2019. Qualcomm and MediaTek's rivalry on the mobile front may all but be dead, particularly in terms of premium devices and since the launch of Huawei's own Kirin 970. That doesn't begin to rule out other areas of technology.
Intel holds a firm grip in the market, dominating nearly every portion of the price spectrum for Chromebooks. Due to its low-cost advantage, MediaTek's eight-core monster could stand to weaken that companies grip and that's especially true at the budget-to-mid-range end of the market.
Coupled with Qualcomm's entry into the segment, the two companies could feasibly drive Intel further into the top-tier — if they don't offer a challenge on that front too.
What about AMD and what does it all mean?
The latest development may also provide the right conditions for an upheaval of the current pecking order thanks to AMD's inclusion in a fresh attack on both the high-end and budget-end of the Chrome OS market. That company's Ryzen-based Picasso chips were spotted in the Chromium developer space as recently as last week. AMD can already be found in the underlying architecture of several lower-end models that have recently been announced.
Taken collectively, the rampant uptick in activity surrounding Chrome OS can only spell good news for end users and consumers. With MediaTek now set to rejoin the fray in the future, there will be more competition on the platform than there has ever been. That should equate to lower prices in the long run and consistent improvement to performance too.