There has been no shortage of stories over the few weeks speculating on the potential end of the Chrome OS. Google vigorously denied those rumors, but now there's renewed talk of Alphabet (Google's parent company) creating a new version of Android for desktop computing.
Of course, we've already seen a spate of Android-based laptops. Most have come and gone quickly over the past few years, although HP's Slatebook is still around.
Still, it's not a stretch to say the status of Google's laptop operating system strategy is in flux. And if you're planning to buy a Chromebook, or already own one, you could be wondering whether your laptop is going to stop receiving OS support sometime in the next few years.
Don't worry. Here's a list of reasons why you should still be able to use your Chromebook no matter how Chrome OS morphs, and almost as many reasons to think Chrome isn't going anywhere for quite some time.
Because Google said so. A company blog asserts that "there's no plan to phase out Chrome OS." Of course, a little skepticism doesn't hurt when it comes to corporate communications. But new Chromebooks do keep coming, and Google says it's continuing to develop new features for Chrome while emphasizing the security that's built into the OS.
Support will continue until 2020. Continued OS support is crucial to keeping your laptop going. Users of Microsoft Windows XP, one of the most popular Windows versions, found this out when Microsoft finally pulled the plug on support for the ancient—in tech terms—OS in 2014. As for Chrome, Google's End of Life policy includes a list of Chrome devices it promises to support until 2020.
Most Chromebook apps are web-based. Chromebooks are cheap at least partly because they were built to run simple apps. And most of those apps are web-based, which means you'll be able to continue running them on other devices and platforms, said David Mitchell Smith, a VP at Gartner Group.
Your files are stored in the cloud anyway. Doing everything online is the whole idea behind the Chromebook. That includes the apps you use, as mentioned above. And it also includes file storage, and the ability to access your data from anywhere on a variety of devices. To that end, all your files, photos, videos, and any other data are stored on Google servers. So even if the worst happens, and your Chromebook becomes completely obsolete, you'll still be able to access your stuff. With Chrome and Chromebooks, it's all about being connected.
"This is a product that's been optimized for that experience," says William Stofega, a mobile analyst with IDC. As a result, he says, if there is an OS change, this is the perfect platform for making that change.
More emphasis on Android is inevitable. Just consider what's been happening with other operating systems, Stofega points out. Apple has in many ways merged iOS with Mac OS, and Windows has become significantly more focused on mobile in the past few years. Google itself has been working on porting Android apps to Chrome for some time.
Android on Chrome could mean better apps. Whether Google eliminates Chrome and moves to Android-only devices, or if it somehow merges the two operating systems, the change would make it much easier and more attractive for developers to come up with Android apps for Chromebooks. And that should be good for consumers.
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