Google adapts Chrome OS for tablets

Google is apparently adapting its browser-based Chrome operating system for tablets.

Although Mountain View officially acknowledged the existence of the project, the company emphasized initial Chrome builds will target notebooks as originally planned.

“[Yes], we are engaging in early open-source work for the tablet form factor, but we have nothing new to announce at this time,” a Google spokesperson told CNET.

“Chrome OS was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of form factors. We expect to see different partners build different kinds of devices based on Chrome OS, but for this initial release we are targeting the notebook form factor.”

As CNET’s Stephen Shankland notes, a tablet version of Chrome raises a “big” question mark about Google’s future tablet strategy – especially as Mountain View just released Honeycomb (Android 3.0) with much fanfare.

“Google can let both tablet projects duke it out internally and in the market. Or, if Google co-founder Sergey Brin is to believed, Android and Chrome OS might merge into a single project,” explained Shankland.

“[But] Google’s modus operandi – release early and iterate often – is a lot harder to pull off when others are involved.”

My take on all this?

Yes, it really is quite unclear why Google is testing Chrome on tablets if Android Honeycomb is currently the company’s flagship operating system for that class of devices.

However, one could hypothesize that Mountain View is hedging its bets – in case Honeycomb is unable to successfully challenge Apple’s iPad.

Of course, Google may also be planning to adopt a hybrid approach to tablets, allowing users to boot up and switch between multiple operating systems like Chrome and Android.

I’m honestly not sure what such an approach would mean for developers, or how many tablet owners would seriously be interested in routinely switching back and forth between Google’s two mobile operating systems.

I personally suspect I’d end up choosing one – probably Android – and sticking with it.

Still, a Google-powered tablet boasting multiple operating systems does seem slightly more likely than the prospect of Chrome OS and Android merging into a single product – at least in the short-term.