Chrome OS designer mocks up Google tablet

Whether or not Google is developing a Web tablet to rival Apple’s iPad, there’s at least one Chrome OS designer who thinks it’s a good idea.

Glen Murphy, a lead designer of user interface for Google’s Chrome Web browser and operating system, posted a set of Chrome OS tablet mockups to the official Chromium site. Chromium is the home for open source development of the browser and OS, so while this in no way means that Google is creating a tablet, these mock-ups give a sense of what the conceptual device might be like.

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There’s nothing too shocking about the mock-ups. We already got the gist of Chrome OS when Google presented it last year, and some netbooks can already run early builds. Mostly, Murphy plays around with the virtual keyboard set-up; in one image, the left- and right-hand keys are divided by empty space, and in another, the keyboard is confined to one corner of the screen. The image above is my favorite, as it hints at a convenient pop-up menu for Web searches and shortcuts. Interface buttons are appropriately large in the other mock-ups.

Murphy encourages other people to come up with their own designs. He’s released a set of standardized hand images for people to show how touch interactions would work, including multi-touch gestures such as three-finger swipes and pinch-to-zoom.

The mock-ups are pretty, but I’m not convinced that a Chrome OS tablet would be superior to one powered by Android. A Web-only device would be worthless on an airplane with no Wi-Fi or in a car without a 3G connection — two places where I’d like to use a tablet. Until the Internet becomes truly ubiquitous, I’d prefer to have a tablet that stores music, movies and games on board. Still, the Chrome OS tablet could be such a far-off concept that by the time it comes around, the world could be ready for it.