Google's Touch Chromebook Rumor: Are Chrome OS and Android Merging?

Microsoft isn't the only company going touch-crazy with its desktop operating system. A new report claims that Google is working on an in-house Chromebook with a touch screen display. If true, this device would pose an interesting third option (and challenger) to the pair of Chromebooks that Acer and Samsung recently released. More important, such a device could combine Chrome OS and Android into a single user experience.

The China Commercial Times claims that Google has already placed hardware orders with Taiwanese manufacturers Compal Electronics and Wintek.  Wintek is said to be handling the production of the Chromebook's 12.85-inch display, which allegedly integrates the touch technology directly into the glass screen itself. The paper claims that Google's touchscreen Chromebook could appear as soon as the beginning of next year, which seems like a bit of a stretch.

Google releasing a touchscreen Chromebook isn't an outlandish idea. While CEO Eric Schmidt said in 2010 that any Google-powered touchscreen devices would run on Android, Google confirmed last year that it was working on a touchscreen, tablet-optimized version of its Chrome OS.

Could this be the beginning of a grand convergence for Android and the Chrome OS? Way back in 2009, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said that "Android and Chrome will likely converge over time" thanks to their similar Linux and Webkit roots, a statement that Google VP of engineering Linus Upson reitereated to TechRadar earlier this year. Introducing a touch-based Chromebook definitely seems like a solid first step down that path.

Much of the Chrome OS's core functionality can already be replicated on Android, and Samsung's new $250 Chromebook sports an ARM-based processor -- the same type of CPU found in Android devices. Having Android and the Chrome OS on the same device would also give users access to hundreds of thousands of applications, many more apps than what can be found in the Chrome store.

Seeing Microsoft shift focus towards the hardware side of things with the Surface tablet could be coaxing Google into a making a similar move, especially now that Motorola Mobility's hardware experience is sitting in Google's back pocket. A Google-branded Chromebook could potentially push partners like Samsung and Acer away, but the Nexus tablet and phone line has done nothing to deter companies from making their own Android gear. We can't wait to see if this rumor is true.