back to article Google promises eternity of updates for Chromebooks – that's a decade for everyone else

Google said Thursday it will provide a decade of service updates for recent model Chromebooks, a policy change that reflects the growing political clout of right-to-repair campaigners. Introduced in 2011, Chromebook hardware initially came with a three-year-life span. That's how long Google provided software and security …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Probably smart move

    It's a simple self-contained OS,they just have to back port a few Linux kernal security patches and keep allowing chrome updates to work.

    Unlike a certain HW seller they have no need for you to buy the new shiny, as long as you keep giving their browser your eyeballs

    And it forces the others to spend $$$ keeping Windows11 OS-XXIIV running for a decade.

    1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: Probably smart move

      What number system are you you using for the version number? XXIIV is not valid Roman, Klingon maybe?

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Probably smart move

        I parsed it as XXIII without particularly thinking about the fact that it was invalid.

      2. aerogems Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Probably smart move

        Since when do software versions need to make sense?

    2. Dinanziame Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Probably smart move

      In most Chromebooks, often used in US schools, the hardware will fail way before 10 years are over.

      1. Bump in the night
        Windows

        Re: Probably smart move

        I suppose that's true. Especially the ones in middle schools.

        Maybe like the Chevy Vega, a plethora of spare parts will abound (except for the batteries), and a generation of FrankenBooks will be brought to life. The remaining issue who will want to repair them. I don't think anyone is offering Chromebook Shop class, but I could be wrong.

  2. YetAnotherXyzzy

    At Google, 10 > 13

    SUSE Linux Enterprise offers 13 years of support. I'm not minimizing ChromeOS's admirable increase to 10 years, but their claim that it is "more than any other operating system commits to today" is inaccurate.

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SUSE_Linux_Enterprise#End-of-support_schedule

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      SUSE LE v ChromeOS

      I suspect the "regular automatic updates" is doing some sneaky heavy lifting in Google's assertion, but you might well be right. Google may argue its ChromeOS updates over those 10 years exceed what SUSE LE gives you.

      Also, "commits to today" -- in the link you provided, SUSE committed to 13 years in 2009, 2014, and 2018.

      Not excusing anyone, just commenting. We'll bear it in mind.

      C.

      1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

        Re: SUSE LE v ChromeOS

        So, since SUSE committed to 13 years of support in 2009 (14 years ago), one might be able to judge their commitment by their actions.

        Unless they launched nothing in 2009 with the 13-years commitment.

        Call me cynical, but I suspect the latter.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: At Google, 10 > 13

      They're also doing some fun phrasing to get there. Technically, Ubuntu LTS versions offer five years of support. However, if you are running Ubuntu 20.04, you can upgrade it to 22.04 on basically everything, so you get unlimited support as long as your hardware has drivers and kernel support and you're willing to run a manual update every few years. Chrome OS doesn't have that. They're not aiming to provide much support, but to be fair to them, I didn't expect they'd do anything like this and I don't see a sneaky exception in their statement, so I have to acknowledge that they have made a substantial improvement.

      1. ChoHag Silver badge

        Re: At Google, 10 > 13

        The statement is the sneaky exception.

        By proposing they garotte you in the first instance, they can now magnanimously downgrade to merely slapping you in the face and be celebrated for their "environmental support".

        Big corporation letting you keep the handicapped stuff they already sold you which just happens to turn you into a money stream? How selfless!

      2. BobBob

        Re: At Google, 10 > 13

        You can also get a free personal Ubuntu Pro license giving you 10 years of support for an LTS install

      3. Lon24

        Re: At Google, 10 > 13

        Google's other cheat is the word 'automatic' which I assume means no user intervention. Updating Debian or Ubuntu does require user intervention between versions if only a click or two. Funnily enough Linux, unlike Microsoft and Google, tends to prefer the control of a PC remains personal rather than corporate. How weird is that these days?

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: At Google, 10 > 13

          I discussed this in a different topic. I think they were being sneaky with that "automatic". It suggests to people who haven't read about it that, after that time, updates are manual instead of automatic. What it actually means is "We'll automatically stop your computer getting any more updates, no matter how much you might want them and be willing to do something about it".

  3. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Chromebook Your-Personal-Lifetime Software Updates for Free

    I have a Chromebook I got back in 2013, and I get my-lifetime of free software updates and upgrades for it.

    I installed SeaBIOS on my Acer C720, installed OpenBSD on it, and never looked back at ChromeOS. Modern Chromebooks lack all 12 F-keys, a SysReq key, etc., and probably don't have the jumper pins which let you reflash the BIOS EEPROM.

    (Icon for "Machine capabilities previously provided by the manufacturer have been removed in newer models for (perceived) profit-related reasons")

    1. Bebu Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Chromebook Your-Personal-Lifetime Software Updates for Free

      Ditto for an old hp intel x86 chromebook. Reflashed the bios and have at various times installed win10, bsd, various linuxes without any problems. The battery always was rubbish so it never got any serious use.

      For me the lower case key lettering was always weird although no one else ever seems to notice.

      The only reason I would buy a chromebook now is if it had an unusual cpu eg risc-v but if the vendor locks it down there is not much point. More capable risc-v sbc are becoming more common and like a rpi4 / 8g are a better option.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Chromebook Your-Personal-Lifetime Software Updates for Free

        Every chromebook I ever had lacked a delete key. This was an annoyance; I use it a lot.

        But chromeos was not for me; I installed various linuxes by various routes.

        1. Captain Scarlet
          Unhappy

          Re: Chromebook Your-Personal-Lifetime Software Updates for Free

          I thought they all had the same keyboards, seems odd to make another one with less keys when they can buy it off the shelf.

          That sucks although HP laptops under 14" tend to be annoying using fn keys for lots of functions, but there is normally a delete key top right of the keyboard.

        2. AJ MacLeod

          Re: Chromebook Your-Personal-Lifetime Software Updates for Free

          On this lovely Dell Chromebook 13 (which has run Void Linux since Google dropped support) I have delete mapped to altgr-backspace which works fine for me. I also have the power button remapped so that I don't switch off the laptop every time I aim for backspace!

          I must say I wish I'd switched it to Void years before; "Crouton" etc were useful but nowhere near as good as a proper minimalist but fully functioning Linux install. Battery life and performance are really impressive considering how old and low spec this thing is - I haven't used any laptop since that I'd like to replace it with. (Oh - and the sound is far better than any other laptop I've ever used, which is a very large number!)

        3. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Re: Chromebook Your-Personal-Lifetime Software Updates for Free

          Modern Apple computers' keyboards lack an [insert] key.

  4. Bebu Silver badge
    Big Brother

    I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...

    《I've seen things you people wouldn't believe, laptops on fire off the shoulder of Orion...》

    A nod to one of the Doctor's speeches? :) "The Rings of Akhaten"?

    1. Andrew Hodgkinson

      Re: I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...

      ...um, no; surely you recognise the famous speech from Bladerunner? If not - SPOILER in video linked to below - beware.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoAzpa1x7jU

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...

      Hahaha, I have a shirt with a Dalek on the front saying "R2-D2? I loved him in Star Trek!"

      Winds up EVERYBODY! But some people see the humor in it and those are the ones I want to have a drink with.

  5. ChoHag Silver badge

    > While a decade of support is a decent stretch for most people

    Only those people who haven't got many of their own.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Mushroom

    "at the end of their usefulness"

    For who ?

    Does Chromebook "support" still start the moment it leaves the factory, instead of the moment it is purchased ?

    Because that's what I heard about Chromebooks. It's support life starts when it leaves the factory. If it sits in storage for nine months before being purchased, the poor sucker has lost nine months of support.

    With a friend like that . . .

    In any case, I still abhor companies that sell hard product and pretend to arbitrarily and artificially determine its lifespan. A Chromebook will last until the keys fall off the keyboard. If Google hadn't succeeded in brainwashing everyone to think that three-years-and-chuck-it was a good idea, I'm sure that there would still be first-gen Chromebooks chugging along merrily.

    Software doesn't rot, hardware does. The lifetime of a product is never the software.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "at the end of their usefulness"

      I thought that, as with any S/W, the life starts at release date so for something with embedded S/W like a Chromebook, that would be at product launch.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: "at the end of their usefulness"

      Yes, it does still start at product launch, and the warehouse time is likely to be much worse than nine months. The reason is that most manufacturers, at least the last time I checked, were using "product launch" to mean "we made a prototype somewhere but haven't offered any for sale yet" and that retailers think that Chromebooks don't really go bad so they're often selling ones that are three years old (from actual product launch) as new. I still think that any death dates should be marked prominently on product packaging. Maybe then Google will make Chrome OS stop working when the hardware can't handle it.

      1. Scoured Frisbee

        Re: "at the end of their usefulness"

        Just walked my 94-yo grandfather through a purchase a few weeks ago, the newest Chromebook he could pick up at a store expires in 2026. This was to replace his 13-year-old W10 Toshiba.

        Working backward I guess he won't get an extension, so hopefully he needs at least one more refresh. I hope I am as active at his age!

  7. sketharaman

    ChromeBook - Peak VFM!

    My daughter got a ChromeBook as prize when she won the national Doodle 4 Google contest in 2013. For the first time, it has gone to the repair shop today. Enough said about length of support and repairability of this product. In my 35 years experience of working in the IT industry, ChromeBook easily has the highest Value For Money.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: ChromeBook - Peak VFM!

      And what version of Chrome OS is it running? How many unaddressed CVEs are in that? If you didn't make up this story, I think you'll be surprised with the answers to that, since 2013 devices had a three-year software support life. Maybe now you'll see why we object to it: the hardware is fine, but they've artificially left you with security vulnerabilities even after they've fixed them for other people.

  8. 43300 Silver badge

    Now we need them to do the same with Android!

    I'm currently planning for replacement of a load of Samsung phones and tablet - nothing wrong with them, all working fine, but they won't run anything newer than Android 11, which goes out of support late this year or early next. And we aren't prepared to risk using devices with out-of-support operating systems.

    1. YetAnotherXyzzy

      Upvoted, because you are right.

      Before you spend all that money, have you considered flashing something like LineageOS or e/OS/ on them? That will get you several more years of security updates.

      1. 43300 Silver badge

        Unfortunately not practical as we need to Intune-manage them, and push out some specific apps (Microsoft Authenticator / Outlook / Teams being the main ones).

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        The problem with that is that most devices don't support it at all, and a number of others don't support it completely. Of course I would prefer to use that to extend the lives of devices, but the only way you can have a chance of that is to get lucky or buy a device that already supports it. From the devices page, you've got a good chance if it's a Fairphone or a Pixel, but otherwise you're going to have to rely on luck.

        I recently helped a charity with some mobile device management. Their phones consist of low-end Samsung and Motorola devices, nearly all with MediaTek SoCs. The hardware is fine, but the software support is not going to last for long. Not a single one supports Lineage OS. I don't think I can convince them to only buy Fairphone in the future by paying at least four times the price, but even if I could, it's not going to help with all the hardware they have now.

        1. 43300 Silver badge

          Most of ours are low-end Samsungs too. They have that Knox security protection which is potentially another barrier to installing anything else on them.

          Of course the major alternative is using iOS as the support period is much longer - but the devices are very considerably more expensive. And in our line of work a number of phones inevitably get broken (I get the semi-ruggedised Galaxy XCover for staff in roles where this is likely). Apple don't do anything ruggedised, and getting several iPhones broken is a lot more significant than if it's a few low-end Galaxies.

    2. aerogems Silver badge

      The problem there isn't really Google, it's probably Qualcomm. They have some funky licensing terms for the lower level chipset stuff, and if they decide they don't want to release any kernel modules for newer versions of Android there's not much Google, Samsung, or anyone else can do.

      Sure, Google could put some pressure on Qualcomm no doubt, but they can't really force them to do anything. Samsung has their own SoCs that they use on basically everything except US models, so in theory they could support those devices almost indefinitely, sort of like nVidia has done with the Shield since they control everything about the X1 SoC. However, then you have the NA market complaining loudly about being left behind. Not sure why Samsung doesn't just use their own SoC in all markets, but there's bound to be a reason. There's no way that someone at Samsung hasn't already considered this possibility and discounted it for some reason, or a variety of reasons.

      I absolutely agree with the spirit of your comment, but it's aimed at the wrong company.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        I've heard that argument before, and there might be something to it if you strip off the first four layers, but that shouldn't absolve anyone of anything. Many device makers don't release updates even when no kernel changes are needed. I'm talking about things as basic as the monthly security updates and they don't bother releasing them on time if at all. You can't usually blame any SoC company for that. The same is true of new OS versions, which when they do eventually arrive a year late (most devices excepted) will be using the same kernel you originally had, probably with a higher patch version but they're not jumping from one LTS kernel to the next even if it's out. Only then can you start to blame the SoC vendor, except the manufacturer is responsible for choosing that vendor and could have picked a chip where support would be longer or where they could do the work. Lineage OS and similar custom ROMs manage, with no contracts for proprietary information, no access to internal code, no debug devices, and no funding, to get modern Android versions to run on lots of old devices. Manufacturers which have all of the above can do it to, and when they fail to do so it's not because some SoC vendor just won't be nice and give them support, but because they don't feel like it. The same way that Google could push the latest Chrome OS image to every X86 Chromebook in existence, and with a little effort could have made ARM ones the same way, but won't do that so the manufacturers can keep selling new ones.

        1. aerogems Silver badge

          Those quarterly security updates Google started releasing a few years back... that is a completely fair argument, though usually the contract with Qualcomm lasts for X period of time and it becomes a convenient point to just kill off that product. But, when it comes to newer versions of Android not being supported, it's often not up to the device makers. If they tried reverse engineering Qualcomm's stuff, they'd get sued pretty much best case scenario. I'm not sure exactly how Lineage manages to avoid being sued, but I imagine it involves walking a very fine line and generally being beneath the notice of Qualcomm. Or maybe more properly, small enough that Qualcomm doesn't figure it'd be worth the resources to sue the project.

          It would be nice if the EU were to pass a law, which was crafted in such a way that it effectively made it apply worldwide, which required vendors like Samsung or Apple, to unlock the bootloaders of devices once they stop providing software updates, allowing people to create and install third party images on them rather than upgrade if they so choose. It'll never happen in the US or South Korea, so the EU is probably the only real hope.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            "when it comes to newer versions of Android not being supported, it's often not up to the device makers."

            The first few ones tend to be entirely up to the makers. It's relatively easy to check: if someone else managed to get the same SoC to run a later version, then they could do so too. Here's an example. I will use Planet Computers as the guilty party here although they're far from the only one to blame. They have a device, the Cosmo Communicator, which runs Android 9 on a Helio P70. The P70 is also in use in devices running Android 12. I don't mean Lineage OS ported Android 12 to it, I mean that someone else manufactured a phone running Android 12 on it and still has a Mediatek license. Maybe Android 13 can't run on it without breaking some license that must exist somewhere, but versions 10-12 are at the least are on Planet.

            Given this, I have to wonder if we're assuming a contractual detail where none exists. Can you explain why the contract says "thou shalt not update the operating system", or just speculation that it must do? I've seen plenty of the latter, but the closest I've come to seeing the former is some talk about vendor-written kernel patches, which shouldn't stop them running newer Android on an older kernel, using someone else's kernel, or open sourcing the kernel changes which they're supposed to do anyway.

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "after those updates stopped, expired Chromebooks ended up as e-waste"

    I'd have thought they just ended up as Chromebooks no longer getting updates. Did they really stop working?

    1. 43300 Silver badge

      Probably depends on who is using them - in the case of home users I agree, but in their other main market (education) there might well be policies banning use of out of support OS versions.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      The SSL stuff needs updates otherwise it will basically stop working.

    3. Col_Panek

      Mine's a 2013 model Pixel, and runs the latest Linux Mint.

  10. TVU Silver badge

    "Google said Thursday it will provide a decade of service updates for recent model Chromebooks, a policy change that reflects the growing political clout of right-to-repair campaigners"

    This is good news that they have at last succumbed to public pressure but they should have made this move of their own volition years ago.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. pip25
    Go

    ChromeOS Flex

    Put it on my parents' 10+-year-old Chromebox. Not the fastest, but still works pretty well, and gets the latest updates from Google. Goes to show how much of a scam these support periods are.

  13. aerogems Silver badge
    WTF?

    One thing I've always wondered

    If you're not going to just sideload your own full-blown Linux distro onto a Chromebook, given they're an evolution of the Netbook idea where you're supposed to use cloud services for everything in order to get away with really low end hardware, I've never figured out the point of buying a Chromebook that has like an i7 or even an i5. That just seems like a ridiculous waste of money if you're going to run nothing but Google's Linux distro where the only things it'd probably benefit is boot times and the Chrome JS JIT compiler.

    But honestly, there's no reason they couldn't be offering 10-years, or more, retroactively on a lot of models. Doing things like providing kernel updates and updates to critical system libs when there's a CVE found and fixed. That seems almost like something that could be completely automated. Especially those i5 and i7 models should have more than enough power to keep up with Chrome updates for a long time to come, so as long as the kernel modules for any proprietary hardware are still being maintained, there's no reason Google couldn't basically provide updates indefinitely.

  14. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Hardware behind the Iron Curtain

    Way back in the day just after the USSR crumbled, I got to work with a bunch of Russian engineers that got the hell out as soon as they were allowed and hoovered up a lot of engineering jobs for peanuts (not to them). One of the things I learned from them was how efficient they could code. Only the military engineers would get nice computers and somebody working in academia would be lucky to have their very own PC-XT they didn't have to share with several others. These days I see software updates that slightly improve on a precious version but now need the latest OS to run which in turn requires newer hardware than I have. If I upgrade my computer to run the new OS, I'll likely find that there aren't driver updates for my peripherals and there goes yet another scanner. I have a very top end scanner right now and an ancient Mac to use it that I got from a friend of mine when he moved. I'm just hoping I can get all of the family's slides digitized before something breaks. Most scanners today are built like crap and getting something that can do slides and large format film is expensive.

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Hardware behind the Iron Curtain

      You're in luck. Microsoft seems to be slowly adopting the Unix method of hardware support: The OS just blindly sends data to the device and assumes it knows what to do with it. Things like printers and scanners having proprietary drivers that will randomly stop working one day will eventually become a thing of the past.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Hardware behind the Iron Curtain

        "Things like printers and scanners having proprietary drivers that will randomly stop working one day will eventually become a thing of the past."

        Printers aren't that hard. Scanners are a pain as there can be all sorts of options so there needs to be specific drivers to use some beyond just digitizing some paper copies of an old contract. In my case I'm scanning slides and large format film (up to 6x7) and using multiple pass options to tease out the best results. Not every sensor is the same either so interpreting the data can be vendor specific as well.

  15. MrDamage Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Pedant

    > "All Chromebook platforms will get regular automatic updates for 10 years — more than any other operating system commits to today," said Prajakta Gudadhe and Ashwini Varma, each senior directors of > engineering for ChromeOS, in an announcement.

    Win10 was released July 15, 2015, and goes EOL October 25, 2025, giving it a support life of 10 years, 3 months, and 10 days.

    /pedant

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    10 years of hardware support through upgrades, not updates

    >10 years of hardware support through free upgrades isn't anything new and this is not 10 years of what everyone knows and understands to be updates. Unless you're an enterprise with 6 month LTS cycle, each release of ChromeOS only comes with 4 weeks of updates, before you're required to get the next full release. Most vendors refer to each full release as an upgrade but Google insists on calling it a "full OS update" to mislead/confuse. You might say I'm splitting hairs but during your 10 year support lifecycle, features can be added, changed or removed by Google on a whim.

    Past examples include:

    * Removing PPAPI support for things like Adobe Flash without a suitable replacement

    * Removing Google Native Client application support for proper packaged apps

    * Removing ARC runtime support to replace it with something not all Chromebooks could use

    * Breaking past whitelist/blacklist policies while inventing new equivalent terminology

    * Multiple changes to the graphics stack as part of infrastructure changes

    Other OSes give you at least a year of breathing room between required upgrades (Windows, macOS) or the option to remain on security-only channels to dodge upgrades (Debian, Ubuntu LTS).

    Google needs to be honest about what they're offering.

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