Why schools in US are suffering from a Chromebook ‘problem’


The Covid-19 pandemic brought unmitigated disaster across the world and its impact is still being felt by many. Yet, some categories or businesses saw an opportunity as well. One of those was Chromebooks. In the last quarter of 2020, the sale of Chromebooks rose a whopping 287% compared to the corresponding quarter of 2019. The rather affordable laptops which run GoogleChromeOS caught the fancy of many schools and students, especially in the US. A report now highlights the issues that schools seem to be facing after buying Chromebooks.
The rather ‘short’ shelf life of Chromebooks
According to a report by Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), schools are beginning to see their laptops fail, creating piles of electronic waste and ultimately forcing schools to spend extra. The e-waste, according to the report, is a huge problem. “When technology like Chromebooks reach their expiration date, only one-third of this electronic waste is properly recycled. If it isn’t designed to last, our environment pays the price,” noted the report.
Chromebook shipments have also been on a decline in the last few quarters. In February 2023, an IDC Jitesh Ubrani, research manager with IDC’s Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers, said that “any traction that Chromebooks made outside the education sector will continue to suffer as the economy stalls and as tablets and PCs supplant Chrome-based devices.”
Google’s ChromeOS update policy is also a bit of an issue for those who buy used or refurbished Chromebooks. Google says that, “Every ChromeOS device receives regular updates from Google until it reaches its Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date, listed below, subject to support from component manufacturers. When a device reaches AUE, automatic software updates from Google will no longer be provided.”
PIRG argues that no school should have to stop using a laptop that still works, just because it’s reached its “death date.” Furthermore, it says that many working Chromebooks end up as e-waste due to the end of software updates. “Google should extend all model’s Automatic Update Expiration (AUE) to 10 years after its launch date,” suggested PIRG.
Repairing Chromebooks is also a challenge, as per PIRG. Spare parts aren’t easy to find and they are expensive as well. “10 of the 29 keyboards we reviewed cost $89.99 or more, which is nearly half the cost of a typical $200 Chromebook,” noted the report.


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