Chrome OS netbooks could launch this week

Call it a hunch, but Google might be about to pull the curtain off the very first netbook based on its Chrome OS operating system. Several publications around the web are expecting an announcement at a December 7 event, for which Google sent out invitations late on Friday. According to eWeek, the invites simply read, "On Dec. 7, we will host an event in San Francisco where we plan to share some exciting news about Chrome."

A story at PC World fuels the speculation by pointing to additional sources. As PC World notes, DigiTimes predicted a December arrival for Chrome OS-based "smartbooks" a few weeks ago. And on Friday, Engadget posted a picture of the keyboard from a purported Chrome OS netbook. That keyboard has a search button where caps lock should be, and it has only control, alt, and arrow keys next to the space bar. If Chrome OS netbooks aren't coming on Tuesday, they certainly don't look too far off.

There's been some talk of Chrome OS venturing onto slates, as well, but Google CEO Eric Schmidt threw cold water on those rumors last month, explaining that Chrome OS is "designed for something with a keyboard." That makes eminent sense—after all, Google is already priming the next version of Android for slates. It probably doesn't need a second slate OS hitting the market around the same time.

I've slammed today's netbooks for having failed to stay interesting, so I'll be one of the first in line to check out those Chrome OS systems and see if they manage to spice up the netbook concept. I could definitely see a case made for a cheap, fast Internet console not bogged down by trialware and still comfy enough to write long e-mails on—something you can't quite say about slates. Then again, users might not be ready to part ways with conventional software and rely solely on web apps.

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