Google Assistant one step closer to marrying Chrome OS, report says

google pixelbook review hinge
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Currently, the only Chromebook that supports Google Assistant is the recent Pixelbook. But that could change in the near future, as Google is reportedly closer to adding baking support for the service right into Chrome OS. That means many Chromebooks could have access to the digital assistant in the near future, including the use of “OK Google” verbal commands.  

The XDA Developers forum recently found new evidence of Google Assistant in the Chrome OS code, spotting a comment that states “add Assistant feature flags changes accordingly.” It follows two other Google Assistant appearances in Chrome OS in 2017, which added Google Assistant settings to the user interface, and a related settings command. 

According to the clues uncovered by the forum, Google Assistant will be present within the operating system, but not necessarily an active feature. It will be disabled by default, and Chromebook manufacturers will determine if Google Assistant will be an active feature. Presumably, Chromebook owners won’t have the ability to manually toggle on the Google Assistant feature. 

Based on the notes, Chrome OS will provide manufacturers with an additional setting for toggling on and off the Google Assistant hot-word listening feature. Theoretically, Chromebooks with built-in microphones that are plugged into an electrical outlet should easily support on-demand voice demands. But manufacturers could disable the feature to conserve power when Chromebooks switch to battery use. 

Then again, notes show that manufacturers could assign Google Assistant to a button, thus it’s not always listening. In other words, Chromebook owners would press a specific key, and then wait for a prompt to say “OK Google.” This might be a better option for Chromebooks when they’re not plugged into an electrical outlet, especially on models with smaller batteries.

The process would be similar to what we have seen on Android phones. For instance, you can set the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to listen for “OK Google” on any home screen while the phone is in an active state. The drawback is that this feature drains the battery slightly faster. The alternative is to turn off the always-listening feature and simply long-press the Home button to activate Google Assistant for longer battery life. 

Google Assistant in Chrome OS is seemingly long overdue. Microsoft already provides a virtual assistant, Cortana, in Windows 10 that actively listens for commands. Microsoft also offers Cortana on Android and iOS devices for multi-device assistance, such as receiving Android-based text messages on Windows 10 PCs. Chromebooks have lacked any type of virtual assistant until the arrival of Google’s Pixelbook toward the end of 2017. 

That all said, given we are already into the second month of 2018, Google Assistant could become a live feature in Chrome OS by the end of the year. Availability will likely depend on the Chromebook’s underlying hardware, and be at the discretion of Chromebook manufacturers.  

Business

Google is buying mysterious smartwatch tech from The Fossil Group for $40 million

Google is about to step up its smartwatch game. The company has agreed to buy an unnamed smartwatch technology from The Fossil Group for a hefty $40 million. Considering the acquisition, it's clear Google is serious about smartwatches.
Computing

Chromebook 13 vs. Google Pixelbook: Acer model takes on the king

Acer's Chromebook 13 is throwing tons of speed at the Chrome OS market, to go with a midrange build and traditional clamshell design. Is that enough to challenge the Google Pixelbook?
Mobile

Android Q: Everything we know so far about Google’s next mobile OS

Android Pie recently rolled out, but it's already time to look ahead to Android Q, the next version of Google's mobile OS. We've seen a number of rumors and leaks come out about the operating system -- here's everything we know so far.
Computing

Google is giving its G Suite web apps new touches of visual improvements

Your G Suite applications will soon have a different look. Several of the web apps are getting updated with subtle visual improvements inspired by Google's Material Design guidelines. 
Computing

Faster new PCIe 5.0 standard leapfrogs the best feature of AMD’s Ryzen 3

PCIe 5.0 will bring even faster data transfers, but it may only be found on HPCs and servers initially. The standard is four times faster than your current PC at transferring data, and new devices could appear later this year.
Deals

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for January 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.
Computing

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.
Computing

Protect your expensive new laptop with the best Macbook cases

If you recently picked up a new MacBook, you’ll want something to protect its gorgeous exterior. Here, we've gathered the best MacBook cases and covers, whether you're looking for style or protection.
Computing

Watch out for these top-10 mistakes people make when buying a laptop

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.
Computing

Don't spend a fortune on a PC. These are the best laptops under $300

Buying a laptop needn't mean spending a fortune. If you're just looking to browse the internet, answer emails, and watch Netflix, you can pick up a great laptop at a great price. These are the best laptops under $300.
Computing

Dell XPS 13 vs. Asus Zenbook 13: In battle of champions, who will be the victor?

The ZenBook 13 UX333 continues Asus's tradition of offering great budget-oriented 13-inch laptop offerings. Does this affordable machine offer enough value to compete with the excellent Dell XPS 13?
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Computing

The Asus ZenBook 13 offers more value and performance than Apple's MacBook Air

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 is the latest in that company's excellent "budget" laptop line, and it looks and feels better than ever. How does it compare to Apple's latest MacBook Air?