Google has extended its guaranteed support for Chrome OS on vendors' Chromebooks to five years, adding a year of support to nearly every device.
Like Microsoft's better-known 10-year support lifecycle for Windows, only half as long, Google promises to provide security patches, bug fixes and feature changes to owners of Chromebooks, the usually-inexpensive laptops powered by the browser-based Chrome OS.
Google calls it the Chrome OS End of Life Policy.
The earlier policy generally promised to support a specific Chromebook for four years from its sales debut. Last week, Google added the extra year.
"EOL dates may be pushed later than the initial date published, but will never be sooner than listed, which will be at least a minimum of 5 years from launch of the hardware," Google said on its policy page.
Before the change, Dell's Chromebook 11 was to be supported until January 2018; the revised policy guarantees support until January 2019. Dell's Chromebook 11 began shipping in January 2014.
After a device reaches its EOL, Google will not guarantee to automatically deliver software updates to Chrome OS on that system. That's a subtle difference from Microsoft's policy, which states that after a product, say Windows XP, reaches end of life, no more patches will be provided. Period.
Google's policy is somewhat more flexible, in that it may still continue pushing updates to obsolete Chromebooks.
The EOL policy was necessary because Chromebooks sales have been strongest to enterprises and educational organizations. Those entities needed some kind of guarantee that their investment would be protected, and that Google would not suddenly pull the support rug out from under them.
The policy applies to all Chromebooks, including those purchased by consumers.
First on the retirement list: Google's own Cr-48, a bulky reference design that Google built to show OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) that a Chrome OS, cloud-based personal computer was possible. The Cr-48 will exit support in December 2015, five years after its 2010 launch.
Google's high-end Chromebook Pixel, which sells for $1,299 to $1,449, will be declared EOL in April 2018.
One of the few Chromebooks that did not get an extension was the Samsung Series 5 XE500C21, which stuck with its January 2016 EOL. In a note on its policy page, Google said that that date had been announced previously as the official end of support.
The Chromebook end of support list can be found on Google's website. It will be updated if Google decides to again extend support for select models, and to reflect new devices that reach market.
Google has pledged to support Chrome OS for at least five years after the launch of any Chromebook.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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