With the change, no existing Chromebook will have to expire within the next two years.
September 14, 2023
By guest author Nicole Nguyen from the Wall Street Journal.
Google is working to push back the expiration date of Chromebooks, addressing concerns held by school administrators that the laptops are too short-lived to be cost effective.
The Alphabet GOOG 1.08%increase; green up pointing triangle -owned company—which develops the Chrome operating system running on computers made mostly by others—said Thursday it plans to provide software updates for Chromebooks for up to a decade. The new policy, which starts next year, ensures that no existing Chromebook will expire within the next two years.
The disclosure of the policy change comes after an August column in The Wall Street Journal detailing schools’ struggles with expiring Chromebooks.
Chromebooks are ubiquitous in classrooms around the country, but some education software doesn’t work after what Google calls the Auto Update Expiration date. Unsupported Chromebooks can’t be used for mandatory state testing, even if the hardware still appears functional.
When the laptops expire, school districts recycle them, sometimes at a cost, and spend millions of dollars on replacements.
Google currently sets expiration dates based on the release date of specific models. Newer models have eight years of support, while older Chromebooks have five. Starting in 2024, Google will support a given laptop “platform”—a certain combination of hardware components—for 10 years after the first device in the platform hits store shelves.
These so-called platforms aren’t unique to specific brands or manufacturers and can be found in a variety of distinct models.
The change retroactively, and automatically, applies to devices released since 2021. On pre-2021 Chromebooks, users will have the option to extend support once they have hit their death date. In practice, this means any model set to expire within the next two years can receive an extension of two to three years depending on the model. For example, Google’s own Pixelbook, slated to expire in June 2024, can now receive updates until June 2027.
“In making changes to the expiration policy, we have to coordinate with each partner making any component in these devices,” said a Google spokesman. “It requires a security and performance guarantee from the makers.”
With the multiyear extension, schools and families can keep Chromebooks a bit longer, saving money and preventing the laptops in decent working condition from becoming e-waste. Doubling the lifespan of Chromebooks’ original expiration dates could save public schools—and taxpayers—an estimated $1.8 billion, according to U.S. PIRG, a public-interest research group.
“With a lifespan of 10 years, fewer working laptops will be disposed of because they’ve reached their ‘death date,’” said Lucas Gutterman, a director at PIRG. “Google and other tech companies should continue to innovate ways to stop the disposability treadmill that pushes us to replace our phones and laptops.”
This week, Google is also fighting the Justice Department in court over accusations it abused market power in internet search.
A Google spokesman said the company would update its Auto Update Expiration page to reflect laptops’ new expiration dates soon.
Appeared in the September 15, 2023, print edition as ‘Google Extends Chromebooks Lifespan’.