I'm all for longer shelf lives, but please don't make the wish the mother of the thought.
What you need to know
- Google is announcing several new updates for Chromebooks in education today.
- Among the highlights is a new Chrome Education Upgrade similar to the Chrome Enterprise Upgrade that debuted last year.
- Google also touted longer shelf lives for new Chromebooks going forward, but several outlets are conflating two claims in the post into inaccurately stating that all new Chromebooks will be getting 8 years of Chrome OS updates going forward.
- Sorry, folks, but that claim is actually "devices launching in 2020 and beyond will receive automatic updates for even longer".
We saw the Lenovo Duet Chromebook back at CES earlier this month, and once it launches later this spring it will get 8 years of Chrome OS updates. This was the first Chromebook on this new platform to debut, and as such I expected others to follow quickly, especially with everyone breaking out new education Chromebooks at BETT in London. Google's BETT-related announcement is getting a lot of buzz today — and really, it should, the Chrome Education Upgrade is going to be an interesting option for schools trying to keep machines updated and in service longer.
Problem is the news that everyone's running with isn't actually true.
No, not every Chromebook launching in 2020 onward will get 8 full years of Chrome OS updates. Some will get a little more, and most will get less.
The paragraph from today's announcement that is causing all the fuss states that "And now, devices launching in 2020 and beyond will receive automatic updates for even longer. The new Lenovo 10e Chromebook Tablet and Acer Chromebook 712 will both receive automatic updates until June 2028. So if you're considering refreshing your fleet or investing in new devices, now is a great time." Many bloggers are taking this to mean all Chromebooks will be getting 8 years of updates — and some obviously are — but it won't be all of them, even if this now means that Chromebook platforms will see 7.5-8.5 years of Chrome OS support as opposed to the 6.5 we were seeing previously.
It's all about platforms
See all Chromebooks are built off of one of several platforms. These are the core hardware configurations that sit inside every Chromebook today; some platforms are beefy powerhouses and some platforms are budget-minded mediocrities. Chromebook platforms are used by multiple Chromebook models by multiple manufacturers over multiple years; this keeps things easier for Google as they ensure Chrome OS updates every six weeks are compatible with hundreds of models across the globe. This also keeps things slightly easier for Chromebook nerds like me: since so many Chromebooks share the same platform, it's easier for us to recommend an individual model we might not have used yet if its using the same platform as a Chromebook we love.
For instance, the new Pixelbook Go uses the same Chromebook platform that the Pixel Slate does, which is also used by ASUS Chromebook Flip C434. All three of these machines will stop receiving Chrome OS update in June 2026. So the older Pixel Slate got a year more Chrome OS support than the Pixelbook Go, but they'll both stop getting updated at the same time.
These platforms can be used over multiple years, which is why when the Lenovo C330 originally debuted, it was only slated to get Chrome OS updates until June 2022, a paltry four years. The platform that the C330 was built on had come out about 18 month earlier, and had been used on Chromebooks that had already been on the market for a while. Google has worked to extend the AUE dates for current platforms over the last year, and now the next step of that progress is to announce longer update windows for new platforms going forward.
However that 7.5-8.5-year countdown starts from the first Chromebook released on that platform. So you'll still need to check AUE dates before you buy a new Chromebook — seriously, people just bookmark this page — because it's not 8 years of updates from when a Chromebook model launches and it's certainly not 8 years of updates from the date you bought it.
I applaud Google on its continuing effort to make Chromebooks more enduring laptops, and longer support lives help everyone. I hate raining on parades, but I love Chromebooks too much to let another inaccuracy muddy the at-times confusing waters of Chrome OS updates.