If you haven’t seen the news yet, Neverware quietly announced that it is now part of Google. Neverware is a 2011 startup that provides a Chrome OS installation, called CloudReady, and support for older laptops and Chromebooks that have reached their end of life support date. The company claims 1.37 million installations across 449 officially certified devices.
I said the news was quietly announced because there’s no official announcement from Google on this. And word of the acquisition is currently found in the Neverware Support site under FAQs. As I read through the questions and answers, I came away with the impression that very little is changing. At least for now.
This particular answer indicates future changes:
CloudReady will continue to be available as-is, and we’re committed to supporting and maintaining existing customers. Over the long term CloudReady will become an official Chrome OS offering, and existing customers will be upgraded seamlessly as that happens.
I’m not sure what “CloudReady will become an official Chrome OS offering” means, at least in the finer details, but my hope is that Google uses the Neverware purchase to continue what the company has been doing: Repurposing older devices into Chromebooks.
The opportunity here is huge if that’s the case, because of the way Google currently manages Chrome OS device development.
In order for a Chromebook to be sold, Google works with chipmakers to ensure that Chrome OS will run on a hardware board. Essentially Google certifies that board. Device makers can then use that board inside a laptop or tablet of their own design. But they can’t just create a Chromebook from scratch with their own board designs. That limits what can or can’t be a “true” Chromebook.
Neverware has picked up the ball for all non-Chromebook devices. It has created installation files for more than 400 devices; some that are Chromebooks and many that aren’t.
This has allowed consumers, schools and businesses to “recycle” older hardware by installing Neverware CloudReady instead of replacing hardware. Think of it as Chrome OS minus a few features on these older laptops that can still be managed in a school or work setting.
Getting back to the opportunity for Google here: My hope is that instead of Chromebooks losing software and security updates after a set time, the devices can still get upgrades through what Neverware offers. This would extend the life of your 2017 Chromebook, for example, beyond the official automatic software update expiration.
There’s really no reason a five or six year old Chromebook can’t run the latest version Chrome OS. Sure, the hardware won’t perform as well as a brand new device, but many consumers take issue with purchasing a laptop that has limited software support.
And while it’s true that laptops from others, don’t get software support forever, Chrome OS is a lighter operating system, partially because it’s limited to a browser, mobile app support and Linux containers.
Hopefully, we’ll soon see if my thoughts are correct. If they are, this isn’t just a big win for Neverware; it would be a big win for Google, and most importantly, for Chromebook owners.