Chrome OS warms up to touchscreens with latest updates

Good new, touchscreen Chromebook owners: The latest stable version of Chrome OS now supports pinch-to-zoom on Web pages. This feature had only been available in the developer and beta Chrome OS channels before, though Chrome for Windows added pinch-to-zoom earlier this year.

Google is also launching a touch-enabled window manager for certain devices.

Until now, Chrome OS has only offered rudimentary touch support. But there are signs that Google is starting to take touch more seriously with its browser-based operating system.

At Google I/O, the company showed off the ability to run Android apps such as Flipboard and Vine on a Chromebook, and those apps have obviously been designed with touch screens in mind. The Chromium OS team is also experimenting with a touch-centric redesign that takes cues from the app switcher in Android L, and experimental handwriting recognition was recently spotted in the dev channel build of Chrome OS.

Although Google and its PC partners have not released any full-blown Chrome OS tablets, a few Chromebooks with touch screens are on the market or coming soon. Acer's C720P (picture above) is a standard laptop with a touch screen, while Lenovo's N20P has a 300-degree hinge that almost turns it into a tablet. Lenovo's Yoga 11e Chromebook does convert into a tablet, though it's mainly aimed at the education market. There's also Google's Chromebook Pixel, an experimental high-end touch laptop that launched last year.

Google appears to be moving slowly, so as not to step on the toes of Android. But the lines between those two platforms are clearly blurring as more touch-enabled features, apps, and hardware come to Chrome OS.

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