We discovered last week that Google is starting to experiment with prospective Chrome OS shelf changes, starting with a larger version for Chromebooks clamshell. From an inner doc, we have now discovered that Google is making some adjustments to the Chrome OS app shelf and its icons, specially in preparing for the Pixelbook 2.
As it now stands, Chrome OS app icons come in a broad variety of forms, a situation complicated by Android, Linux, and the web’s capacity to install applications. This leads to some bigger or lower app icons than others. Gmail is a nice instance of this, as it has a vertically smaller rectangular icon than most other Chrome OS icons.
Google appears to be getting prepared to alter this by making more icons circular instead. We discover a couple of issues screenshots from what appears to be an inner Google Doc in a couple of problems that refer to an inner Google link “go / atlas-shelf.” As you may recall, Atlas is the device’s internal codename that we think to be the Pixelbook 2.
In the pictures, on the Pixelbook 2, we see two prospective default layouts for the Chrome OS shelf, one starting with seven default applications and one starting with ten. These are labeled with “A” and “B” in real Google fashion.
It is frankly interesting to see a seemingly unimportant detail of a (probable) Google product in Google’s decision-making process, even referring to the initial codename of the Pixel Slate, Meowth. But look at the footnote more closely.
Because what we see in the “mocks” is the same as what we see in today’s Chrome OS, these fresh circular format icons must come to the app shelf at least quickly, if not the launcher as a whole. But what does this imply precisely?
At the very least, the default Google app icons on Chrome OS will take a circular shape, replacing their present rectangular (Docs, Gmail, etc.) or triangular (Drive) forms, which would at least offer fresh Chromebook owners a consistent look.
Whether other applications are also being pushed to use circular icons is not understood. Google lately pushed for consistency in Android app icons, which might also be implemented to make those applications compatible with Chrome OS. That still leaves the issue of Linux and Web applications, where Google has far less control over the design decisions of developers.
Either way, given that the inner doc seems to have close connections to the Pixelbook 2, we’re probably not going to see exactly what Google has in mind for a few more months for the new circular icon format on Chrome OS.