[Reading time - 2 minutes 53 seconds]
Personal computer users are used to the fact that at some point in time the vendor behind the operating system (OS) running on that computer will stop sending out updates. What many users are surprised to learn is that their Google Chromebooks have an expiration date.
Microsoft calls the lifetime of its OS the "product lifecycle" and it starts when the product is released and ends when the product is no longer supported with updates. For Windows it's a little confusing because things keep changing. With Windows 10 security patches are distributed the second Tuesday of each month, while feature updates are released twice a year. But the "end of service" dates for the different versions of Windows 10 varies. With Windows 7 the end of "extended support" that includes security patches is right around the corner on January 14, 2020. After this date Windows 7 will not receive security patches or any updates, so all Windows 7 users need to have a plan in place for retiring or updating Windows 7 computers. The Windows lifecycle support page is here.
Apple, on the other hand, does not have an official written statement about the lifecycle of its macOS. Most recently Apple has provided security patches for the current release of macOS and the prior two releases. Thus, if Apple releases a new version of macOS each year then the lifecycle of each release of macOS is about three years. The Apple lifecycle support page is here.
Many users of Google Chromebooks are surprised to learn that, like Windows and macOS, Chromebooks have an expiration date. But Google has never clearly advertised that fact. Most Chromebook users one day receive a notification on their computer that says, "This device will no longer receive the latest software updates. Please consider upgrading." There's no direct advance warning to the user: the date has simply passed, and the Chromebook has expired.
Here's how it works for Chromebooks. First, Google renamed its "End of Life" policy to the "Auto Update Policy" that has an "Auto Update Expiration (AUE)." Google provides updates for 6.5 years. But it's not 6.5 years after you bought your Chromebook; it has nothing to do with the purchase date. Rather, the 6.5 year clock starts ticking, according to Google, "when the first device on the platform is released." Google does not define what it means by "platform," but presumably it relates to the motherboard being used. So, if later models come out but use the same older hardware platform, they will not be supported as long. That is, if a manufacturer releases a new model but it uses a one-year old hardware platform, it will have only 5.5 years of updates instead of 6.5 years.
And how do you know when your Chromebook will expire? Google says, "Google will provide advanced notice of a model’s AUE date on this page, giving buyers time to make purchase decisions." So, Google expects Chromebook users to find out the manufacturer and model number of their Chromebook, check the Auto Update policy page, scroll down to the specific manufacturer, click on the model number, and then they can find its expiration date.
That sounds simple--but it's not. For example, HP Chromebooks have model numbers like "14-ca050na." But Google's list of models has "Chromebook 14 G1." An alternative method is to open the Chromebook, go to chrome://version, and under the Platform section it will list a code name. You can then use this table to find the proper model number to then look up the expiration date using Google's AUE page.
And to make things even more confusing, although updates are not guaranteed past the AUE date, many users have reported still receiving updates, some for more than nine months. Evidently, if the updates are feature-oriented and are not specific to the underlying hardware, the updates can continue to be pushed out. However, once they depend on having the corrected version of firmware, then the updates may end. And just last week (Sept 30 2019) Google extended the AUE of eight Chromebook models for three more years (June 2022 to June 2025). The models are the Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook, Lenovo 100e Chromebook (2nd Gen), Lenovo N23 Yoga Chromebook, Lenovo 300e Chromebook (1st and 2nd Gen), Lenovo IdeaPad S330 Chromebook, Lenovo IdeaPad C330 Chromebook, and Poin2 Chromebook 14.
It's all too confusing for most users. Google should streamline their process and do a much better job of informing users in advance about their Chromebooks' expiration date.
You must be a registered user to add a comment. If you've already registered, sign in. Otherwise, register and sign in.