Among the changes arriving in the most recent Chrome OS Dev channel release is a hidden…wallpaper.
The image, which is another colourful multi-layered paper background echoing Google’s new Material Design language, is tucked away (you can’t see it in the Wallpaper Picker) in the Chrome OS assets folder.
Yes, I know. Hardly revolutionary stuff, right? But there is something interesting about it: the name.
It’s titled “child_large.jpg” (there’s also an identical smaller version called ‘child_small.jpg’). The new drape sits inside the same folder that houses the main default wallpaper (‘default_large.jpg’) and the guest session background (‘guest_large.jpg’).
But why is it there?
In an interview with USA Today last year Google told of its plans to craft child-friendly versions of some of its most popular services and apps, aimed specifically at the under 12s.
While (at the time) the big G never said precisely which of its popular products would get the bubble wrap and poster paint treatment some were obvious.
On cue, earlier this year, Google launched the YouTube Kids app in the US for both iOS and Android, letting parents sit their little’un in front of the world’s most popular video site without having to worry about inappropriate content flashing up on their screens.
(I’m hoping a version for cats is in the works, too.)
“[Google] have been looking at how families are using our products, and how we can make it easier for children and parents to explore and play together. We decided to start with YouTube,” Google VP of engineering Pavni Diwanji and Product Manager Shimrit Ben-Yair explain in the YouTube for Kids announcement.
“For years, families have come to YouTube, watching countless hours of videos on a variety of topics. And today, we’re launching YouTube Kids, a new family-friendly app that makes it easy for kids to explore a vast selection of videos on any topic.”
Parents have embraced the idea; YouTube Kids sits as #30 in the App Store at the time of writing.
So about this hidden wallpaper: does its sudden arrival suggest that Google is also working on a new child friendly ‘user account’ for Chromebooks, too?
In the Chrome OS Canary channel sits a new “Enable child account detection” flag that lets testers opt-in to ‘Enable detection of child accounts on sign-in and startup, as well as periodically’.
Parents can already create local Chromebook accounts for their kids using the Supervised Users tool and then manage/monitor web activity using an online dashboard (including restricting the type of content they can access).
But it’s not perfect. Supervised Users cannot install suitable apps or extensions from the Chrome Web Store, even if a parents wants them to.
And then there is education. A huge number of schools in the US use or loan Chromebooks to students as a teaching aid, most of which use a similar limited account. This new wallpaper could be a new background for these Google for Education sign-ins.
Whatever it turns out to be it does at least suggest that Google is thinking about ways in which it can differentiate the Chromebook experience for younger people, even if only at the superficial level.
But what starts with a change of wallpaper could, given rumors that a ‘kids version of Chrome’ is also being worked on, be a small hint of hugely awesome things to come.
Download the New Wallpaper
Want this new wallpaper? You can download it by hitting the link below or, if you’re running the latest Chrome OS Dev channel release, by going to file:///usr/share/chromeos-assets/wallpaper in a new browser tab.