Dell may be the first company to launch a Chromebook with integrated privacy screen features, according to recent reports and some sleuthing by Chrome Unboxed. That's based on a couple of recent additions to the Chromium Gerrit code repository for Chrome OS.
According to the first recent commit, some "upcoming" Chrome OS laptops will have privacy screens built right in. For clarity, this appears to be the type of privacy screen that's built directly into the display. That means that it will rely primarily on the device's backlighting or a film that can be activated or deactivated electronically.
The biggest hint pointing to that is the fact that the feature is toggleable with the keyboard shortcut. That shortcut will likely be determined by the OEM, in this case. The code repository doesn't point to any specific entry, expressly indicating it will be a hotkey.
Why would this Chromebook with a privacy screen come from Dell?
For end-users, the advantage of a privacy screen chiefly stems from how those are used. In this particular case, a user will press the hotkey to toggle the feature. The backlight of the device or a film will be activated to prevent on-screen content from being visible outside of a heavily reduced range of viewing angles.
Summarily, users can then only read the display from angles directly in front of it. That will make it more difficult for others to peep without being noticed.
The most obvious use case for the use of privacy screens is in the business world. Whether in an office or in a cafe, sometimes work needs to be done on projects that are to be kept under wraps. Privacy screens add an extra layer of protection to keep content on the screen from being viewed by unauthorized eyes.
There are plenty of applications for privacy screens outside of enterprise and business too. So this won't necessarily only be applied there. But the first company to release a Chromebook with a privacy screen will almost certainly be Dell.
That's based on another commit, pointing to a toggle key assignment for a Chromebook manufactured by Compal. That's been codenamed 'Drallion'. Large portions of the code for Drallion were copied over directly from Chrome OS gadgets codenamed ‘Sarien’ and ‘Arcada’. Those are, in fact, Dell enterprise devices that were launched as recently as last August.
Coming in late 2020 or in 2021?
The appearance of these devices in the Chrome repository means that they should be coming soon but not necessarily in 2020. For now, the code surrounding the devices is slim enough that it isn't possible to determine whether 2020 or 2021 will be the final launch date.
It also isn't immediately clear whether the device will fall into the budget, mid-range, or premium category. The team behind the device seems to be gearing quite a lot of the code from the above-mentioned Enterprise gadgets.
A lot of what has been coded out for Drallion seems to point to an enterprise device. So it will most likely fall into the mid-range category at very least — although the appearance of such a unique feature may point to the high-end of the market instead.