They say ‘no smoke without fire’ and all the speculation suggesting Google is developing touch screen laptops running its Chrome OS — known as ‘Chrome Pixel’ — has added another string of plausibility to its bow after the Wall Street Journal reported the devices are in development.

One day before a Google press event in the US, the paper says that “the first touchscreen laptops powered by its Chrome operating system to be sold later this year”.

It isn’t clear whether tomorrow’s press event in San Francisco is related to this report, but it wouldn’t be the first time that the media let a cat out of the bag a little earlier than a tech firm would like. The fact that the event is being held at Obscura Digital could be significant.

We reached out to Google, but the company declined to comment on the report.

The details of the report contain no new information and there’s still plenty of mystery however, since the newspaper is unable to verify the date that the device may launch, or which company is manufacturing them. Yet the message is crystal clear, Google is ramping up its market presence, having already topped the smartphone space with its Android operating system — Gartner estimates that the platform enjoyed a near-70 percent share of global smartphone sales in Q4 2012.

The Journal says that just 100,000 Chromebooks were estimated to have been sold in the final quarter of 2012. Given Google’s position as a key Internet player, the growth of Android and its foray into hardware with the purchase of Motorola, it isn’t a big surprise that the company has bigger ambitions in the PC/tablet space.

Acer and Samsung are the Asian partners that produce Google’s existing Chromebook range — which retail at $199 and $249, and have recently been promoted through ads within its Chrome browser — but it isn’t clear if either firm, both of which are Android partners, is tasked with developing the alleged touch screen devices.

Today’s news comes less than a week after the Wall Street Journal reported that Google is “studying Apple’s playbook” with a view to launching its own retail stores. Google is being speculated to sell its own hardware there and, given that its current roster of Google-branded offerings is slim, the addition of touch screen Chromebooks could increase the draw for consumers.

The Pixel Chromebook was reportedly revealed by a leaked video and a trail of breadcrumbs left by testers. Reports suggested the device could a high-density display complete with a 2560 x 1700 resolution and would be all touch.

We reached out to Google for comment on the original Wall Street Journal report.

Image via casasroger / Flickr