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Android to face new tablet competition from... Google's own Chrome OS?

Google is in the early stages of rejigging its Chrome OS to work on tablets, the company has admitted after changes in the Chrome OS source code hinted at tablet devices.

Google is bringing its Chrome OS to tablet devices, although it's still in the 'early open-source' stages of making the Chrome software run on slate devices, according to the company. It was responding to questions after new additions to the latest Chrome OS source code seemed to hint at tablets rather than netbooks.

"We are engaging in early open-source work for the tablet form factor, but we have nothing new to announce at this time," Google tells our sister site CNET News in a statement, while stressing that for now, keyboard-toting devices remain the focus for the operating system.

"Chrome OS was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of form factors. We expect to see different partners build different kinds of devices based on Chrome OS, but for this initial release we are targeting the notebook form factor."

The speculation about Chrome coming to tablets soon was fuelled by some new features in its source code, including the ability to deliver websites optimised for touchscreen devices, a virtual keyboard, and the ability to re-orient new-tab pages when a device is rotated. Last time we looked, nobody rotates their netbook when surfing.

Screenshots of the latest new-tab page definitely has more of a tablet feel, with its icons arranged in rows, and elements at the bottom hinting at the ability to swipe from left to right to more homescreens.

The big question is what this means for Android, which is due to be used in dozens of tablets this year by the likes of HTC, LG, Motorola, Sony and Acer. Two rival tablet operating systems available from the same company sounds like technological insanity.

Then again, as CNET News reminds us, Google co-founder Sergey Brin has in the past suggested that "Android and Chrome will likely converge over time", so it's possible that whatever lessons Google learns from tablets running its two OS will ultimately lead to one merged piece of software. But when? In any case, it looks as though we won't be seeing any Chrome tablets on sale this year.