Chrome OS Is Changing In A Way That Could Help Chromebooks Last Much Longer

Google Pixelbook
Google is working toe decouple its Chrome browser from the Chrome OS window manager and system UI, and while on the surface that might sound like a puzzling move, there is a method the company's madness. By separating Chrome from Chrome OS, Google could theoretically extend the relevancy of an aging Chromebook.

Chrome and Chrome OS are intertwined. The system UI and browser share the same binary. Where this can become problematic is when a Chromebook reaches its Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date, At that point, automatic updates are no longer doled out, and owners of an affected model could lose some key functionality.

"Chrome devices that have not reached their AUE date will continue to receive OS updates and function with Chrome Education Upgrade and Chrome Enterprise Upgrade. After the AUE date is reached, existing and future policies may not work as intended, and technical support will not be provided," Google explains in a support document.

This is where decoupling Chrome from Chrome OS could come into play, as it applies to obsolescence. It is part of a project called Lacros (Linux And ChRome OS). This entails renaming the Chrome binary to ash-chrome, and renaming the Linux version of Chrome to lacros-chrome. In doing so, Google can work on two separate binaries, releasing updates independently of one another.

Kent Duke at Android Police said he first tested Lacros in the developer channels as a Chrome flag back in April, and with the most recent Chrome OS Canary channel update, was able to get a better look. What he found is that Lacros Chrome works pretty much like normal Chrome, it just needs a bit of polish.

This may not seem like a big deal, but if implemented, it means a user with a Chromebook that has reached its AUE date could still receive Chrome browser updates, including security updates and new features and functions. And in a broader sense, this could potentially save schools a lot of money, if they wanted to buy a surplus of older Chromebook models, particularly with remote learning being the in-thing right now.

It's not clear how Google will proceed with Lacros, but once released, it could conceivably alert Chromebook owners who have reached their AUE date to install it.