It’s time to rethink the Chrome OS upgrade standard

I’ve never been one to shy away from calling out mobile tech injustices — especially when it comes to the realm of operating system upgrades. Well, gang, here we go again.

Now, hang on: This isn’t another impassioned rant about Android upgrades. Nope; this time, we need to talk about Google’s other mobile-tech platform — the one that’s usually the subject of thickly ladled upgrade praise. Yes, oh yes, it’s time to talk about the typically commendable Chrome OS.

First, some context: Chrome OS and Android may be increasingly alike on the outside, but when it comes to operating system upgrades, they couldn’t be more different. With Android, y’see, device-makers are free to modify the OS in any way they see fit — and it’s that very freedom that then results in those same companies being responsible for processing and sending out upgrades for their own devices instead of Google handling it for everyone.

With Chrome OS, on the other hand, Google maintains tight control of the software. The operating system is more or less always the same, no matter what type of device you’re using or which company made it. Because of that, Google’s able to manage OS upgrades directly for all devices and send them out itself. And suffice it to say, the difference that makes from our perspective — that of the multi-limbed mammals who purchase and rely on said devices — is dramatic.

You know the deal, right? On Android, if you aren’t using one of Google’s own Pixel phones, you’ve got virtually no guarantee of if or when any given upgrade will reach you. The wait often ends up being six months to a year, sometimes more, with virtually no communication along the way — and things are even less dependable if you’re using (GASP!) last year’s phone model. Sometimes, a phone-maker will leave you hanging for ages and then just decide not to bother giving you an upgrade at all, despite your phone still being in the standard two-year window for support. It’s all quite lovely, to say the least.

On Chrome OS, no matter what kind of Chromebook you’re carrying, you consistently get every single upgrade — be it a major version bump or a minor patch — within a matter of days of its release. You don’t even think about it, in fact; the software just shows up without issue or interruption, often without even alerting you to its presence.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.


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