Recent Chromebooks will soon get a decade of support. Google announced yesterday that starting next year, Chromebooks released in 2021 or later will get ten years of automatic updates, an increase from the existing eight years. It's a shift following complaints from consumers and education customers, who criticized that their laptops effectively had expiration dates.
Google states the ten-year promise is "more than any other operating system commits to today." Apple's macOS has typically lasted seven to eight years — the upcoming macOS Sonoma will work on an iMac Pro from 2017. Windows machines have been very flexible, though Windows 11 had strict requirements that removed many eligible devices from use (however, there are workarounds).
Chromebooks released before 2021 will also see a potential extension. In that case, the owner (or an IT administrator) will have to manually turn on the extension after receiving the last update they initially expected. However, "some features and services may not be supported." Google also writes that Chromebooks still have "strong, built-in security features," such as Verified Boot to check if a system has been tampered with.
Google also states it is pushing its partners to use more recycled materials in Chromebooks, and promises that new features like adaptive charging and battery-saver modes will help batteries last longer and reduce energy use, respectively.
In April, the US Public Interest Research Group's Education Fund produced a damning report entitled "Chromebook Churn" that stated that expiring Chromebooks were "creating piles of electronic waste and saddling schools with additional costs."
The US PIRG pushed for ten years of support and easier repairability with standardized designs across Chromebooks. In a survey it conducted, Google claims that 80% of schools said they do repair devices and that the company will offer "new repair flows allow authorized repair centers and school technicians to repair Chromebooks without a physical USB key." But that doesn't address issues that US PIRG interviewees brought up, like replacing entire keyboards or disposing of the largely plastic Chromebooks.
Still, the ten years of support is a solid promise out of Google. The company has revised its Auto Update Policy page, which lists every major Chromebook and then some, including when their new expiration dates under the changed policy.