Report: Next-gen Chromebooks on the way

Despite their bargain-basement prices, Chromebooks just don't seem to be that popular. Web tracking firm NetMarketShare says the Chrome OS-powered machines make up a miniscule portion of web traffic—just 0.023% for the second week of April. To put that figure into perspective, Windows 8's share of surfing traffic was 142 times higher. And no one is supposed to like Win8.

Even with Chrome OS's share of web traffic barely registering on the radar, notebook makers are apparently planning a new wave of systems for the second half of the year. DigiTimes' sources in the supply chain claim that Acer, Asus, HP, and Samsung all have new Chromebooks in the works. The Acer machine will purportedly target students and have an 11.6" display. There are no details on what the others might entail, but we can probably expect budget offerings rather than high-end designs like the $1,300 Chromebook Pixel, which has a Retina-esque high-PPI display.

Interestingly, DigiTimes says Acer, Asus, and HP are also working on "Androidbooks," which could be the low-cost, Atom-powered notebooks teased by Intel execs in recent weeks. Those systems are supposed to cost around $200, undercutting current Chromebooks by 50 bucks. If Androidbooks are convertible tablets, as some have suggested, clamshell Chromebooks could look especially stodgy.

The fact that Chrome OS is more limited than Android certainly doesn't help. Neither does the spartan app selection. There are signs Chrome OS and Android might be on a collision course, though. In March, Google announced that former Android head Andy Rubin was moving to a new project within the company, and that the OS would be managed by Sundar Pichai, who is also in charge of Chrome. That corporate shuffle, combined with the Chromebook Pixel's touchscreen (the first for a Chromebook), suggests the two operating systems are moving closer together. With Android and Chrome OS running on similar hardware—and convertibles blurring the lines between notebooks and tablets—Google may be better off combining its mobile operating systems.

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