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Google accused of sabotaging Chromebooks by cutting updates - Mobilemall

Google accused of sabotaging Chromebooks by cutting updates

Google accused of sabotaging Chromebooks by cutting updates

A damning new report suggests Google has successfully sentenced outdated Chromebooks to dying by ending assist for them – a declare that the corporate has strenuously denied.

As The Register explains, a report by U.S. PIRG titled Chromebook Churn (opens in new tab), alleges that after a spike in gross sales, primarily spurned on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Chromebooks purchased by colleges at the moment are starting to “fail”, causes extra digital waste and “saddling colleges with extra prices.”

Based on the report, there are three most important the reason why even the perfect Chromebooks have gotten unusable for colleges:

  • Producers usually don’t promote new spare components or in any other case assist restore.
  • Computer systems have a built-in “dying date,” after which software program assist ends.
  • Design decisions frustrate restore and reuse. 
  • With factors 1 and three, the report criticises Chromebook producers resembling Asus, Acer and HP for creating Chromebook gadgets which might be troublesome to restore, and for not providing spare components or restore providers, so when a Chromebook turns into defective, there’s little or no house owners can do apart from discard the Chromebook. For colleges which have closely invested in Chromebooks, this challenge turns into much more problematic as a result of scales concerned.

    The report discovered that of 11 Chromebooks which U.S. PIRG had repairability scores (that are required in France), the Chromebooks all scored noticeably decrease when it got here to repairability and components availability in comparison with commonplace laptops.

    Based on the report, “Acer doesn’t straight promote spare components for his or her gadgets,” whereas “HP claims to supply components for Chromebooks at components.hp.com, however looking reveals enormous gaps in its sensible use.” On this case, whereas HP claimed to supply components for its Chromebook 11a, these components have been in reality the facility adaptor and twine – not a lot use if the Chromebook wanted inside repairs.

    Asus, the opposite main Chromebook producer singled out within the report, “affords a ‘Buyer Self Restore’ program which claims to supply, “speedy, handy possibility for pocket book restore,” which is barely higher, however which the report notes could also be of use to people, however not a lot use to colleges and establishments that would have lots of of items to restore.

    Dying date

    Whereas the report takes goal at Chromebook producers, Google, the corporate behind the Chrome OS working system they use, additionally will get flack for including what PIRG calls a “dying date”, however which Google calls “Automated Replace Expiration (AUE) dates.” Basically, each Chromebook is outwardly given a set date when it would now not obtain updates for Chrome OS.

    Whereas this doesn’t imply that the Chromebook will cease engaged on that date, it does imply it now not will get safety and have updates, leaving it weak to web threats resembling viruses. That is significantly worrying for colleges whose Chromebooks are used primarily by kids.

    Additionally, PIRG claims there’s been stories of expired Chromebooks now not with the ability to entry sure web sites resulting from not with the ability to move a safety verify – a fairly main drawback for Chromebooks, contemplating they rely a lot on on-line providers.

    {Hardware} and software program reaching ‘finish of life’ phases is commonplace – Microsoft, for instance, has stopped supporting older variations of Home windows, resembling Home windows 7 and Home windows 8. Nevertheless, because the report suggests, these finish of life dates happened after a for much longer time than the ChomeOS AUE dates occurred.

    For instance, Home windows 7’s finish of life was 14 January 2020, 10 years after the working system launched. Some Chromebook’s AUE are seven years after the mannequin has launched – and resulting from how colleges buy Chromebooks, they may get the unit two or extra years into the product’s life – which implies the time earlier than the AUE arrives is dramatically shorter. This might additionally impression particular person customers as effectively.

    Crucially, you’ll be able to improve a laptop computer or PC to a more moderen model of Home windows when the present model reaches its end-of-life – so long as the system meets the minimal {hardware} necessities. Nevertheless, with Chromebooks, there’s much less readability about why a Chromebook can’t be up to date to a brand new model of Chrome OS, and its troublesome – if not not possible – to modify to a special working system.

    This results in a state of affairs the place colleges, establishments and even people might discover that they’ve a non-functional Chromebook, regardless of its {hardware} being completely nice. This, once more, is extremely wasteful.

    Google’s response

    We contacted Google after studying the report, and got the next assertion:

    “We’ve labored diligently with our {hardware} companions to extend the years of assured assist Chromebooks obtain, and since 2020, we now present eight years of computerized updates, up from 5 years in 2016. We are also all the time working with our system manufacturing companions to more and more construct gadgets throughout segments with post-consumer recycled and authorized supplies which might be extra repairable, and over time use manufacturing processes that cut back emissions.

    Common Chromebook software program updates add new options and enhance system safety each 4 weeks, permitting us to repeatedly iterate on the software program expertise whereas guaranteeing that older gadgets proceed to operate in a safe and dependable method till their {hardware} limitations make it extraordinarily troublesome to supply updates.”

    Google’s transfer to increase assist for Chromebooks is to be welcomed – nonetheless, the report claims that this extension reveals that “AUE dates are a alternative.”

    I feel that’s being a bit unfair – Chromebooks by their nature depend on web providers, slightly than locally-installed functions, so maintaining them up to date with safety features is extremely vital, and sooner or later Google does have to restrict the variety of gadgets it will probably preserve supporting earlier than issues get unmanageable.

    Nevertheless, extra transparency on when AUE dates are and why they’re applied will surely assist. It additionally doesn’t assist if you happen to purchased a Chromebook in 2016 solely to search out it now not supported, and due to this fact missing options, after simply 5 years.


    The report is kind of painful studying for Google and Chromebook producers, because it undermines the principle promoting factors of Chromebooks: their affordability, environmentally pleasant nature and advantages as academic gadgets.

    Chromebooks stay among the finest laptops for college kids on the planet, and are gadgets I typically advocate to people who find themselves on the lookout for a extra reasonably priced different to laptops and MacBooks.

    The report means that “Chromebooks aren’t designed to final, however Google has the facility to vary that,” and lays out 5 methods to deal with its considerations.

    The primary is to “Lengthen expiration dates for Chromebooks” to 10 years after the mannequin’s launch date. This, the report claims, will “enable faculty districts to enormously lengthen use, doubtlessly permitting college students to make use of the identical Chromebook all through nearly all of their Ok-12 attendance. Decommissioned laptops is also resold or refurbished to increase their life.”

    The second is that “producers ought to produce spare components primarily based on 10% of their inventory,” and that this “will enhance availability and preserve costs low for establishments shopping for widespread components in bulk resembling keyboards, screens, and chargers.”

    The third suggestion is that “Components ought to be standardized throughout fashions and producers” which might enable components from damaged Chromebooks for use to restore others – even from completely different producers.

    The fourth is that “Refurbishers ought to be capable of unenroll gadgets from distant administration,” as sure Chromebooks will be locked down if it’s tied to an earlier person. This is a crucial safety characteristic for people, however might trigger points for colleges and establishments that count on many customers to make use of one system over its lifespan.

    The ultimate suggestion is that “Google ought to make it straightforward to put in different working techniques,” resembling Linux.

    These are admirable solutions and will surely enhance the lifespan of Chromebooks – nonetheless, sadly I actually can’t see lots of them being adopted.

    Extending the AUE would have monetary and operational implications for Google that I can’t see the corporate being eager on, particularly within the present local weather. I can also’t actually envision Google being eager on permitting customers to put in different working techniques.

    Demanding producers to provide spare components of 10% of their inventory additionally appears optimistic and doesn’t appear to consider reputable monetary the reason why the producers would do that. In the event that they have been, count on Chromebook costs to rise.

    Additionally, as a lot as I’d like to see it, I battle to think about HP, Acer, Asus and different rivals placing apart their variations and standardising components. Not solely is there a rivalry, however they might additionally argue that this standardisation reduces product uniqueness.

    The fast obsolescence of Chromebooks is a vital and regarding matter, particularly whether it is being artificially hastened  by selections Google and producers are taking. I’m definitely glad that this report has highlighted such points. Nevertheless, I don’t assume the solutions it comes up with are significantly sensible, despite the fact that I want they have been.

    Regardless, this is a matter that wants addressing, and I need Google and producers to proceed to provide me good causes to advocate Chromebooks to individuals.

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