This story was originally published and last updated .
What if you could give your janky old laptop PC a fresh-faced Chrome OS-inspired makeover? That's the promise of CloudReady, a free operating system based on the open-source Chromium OS that essentially converts legacy Windows, Macs, and even older Chrome OS devices into brand-new Chromebooks. Now Neverware, the company behind the endeavor, has announced that it's officially joining up with Google — but there may be some unwanted consequences for consumers.
Up until now, anyone with an aging device that's slowing down (and supported) has been able to download and install CloudReady Home edition for free. Especially in our current times when kids and grownups alike need solid computers to get work done at home, Neverware offered a reliable and relatively easy solution at no charge. We even created a guide to the process earlier this year.
For Windows users, installing CloudReady is as simple as starting up its automated USB installer.
Now that the company is a part of Google, the future of the Home Edition is clouded. According to a support page answering questions about the transition process, Neverware states that there are "no changes to the Home Edition at this time," but that's only discussing the short term — leaving the door open for things to change later on.
Neverware sells Enterprise and Education editions of its software, too. The company says that existing multi-year license agreements will be honored by Google, and that there are no other changes to plans or pricing to announce at this time. CloudReady will continue to be supported as usual for the foreseeable future, with the goal of becoming an "official Chrome OS offering" in the long term. As that occurs, existing customers should be able to seamlessly switch over to Google's implementation of the software solution.
While there are valid concerns about Google's reputation for shutting down projects, there are also some positives that could come about due to the merger. Android apps and the Play Store have never been supported on CloudReady, but now that it's an official branch of Google, it seems plausible that this could change sometime down the line.
Additionally, this news could open up the possibility for Google to extend the EOL dates for existing Chrome OS devices — Neverware supports its certified hardware for up to 13 years from the original release date, which would make for a solid step up. And since CloudReady runs on Windows and Mac machines, Google might even unveil an official way to easily convert those devices into Chromebooks — which, given a proper marketing campaign, could help skyrocket the success of Chrome OS overnight.
End of support for VirtualBox and Flatpak
When Google acquired CloudReady developer Neverware, we knew it was a matter of time before consequences were felt by users. That time has now come with the announcement that CloudReady will no longer support VirtualBox or Flatpak after version 87. This could be particularly troublesome for users whose devices don't support Linux for Chrome OS (Beta) — unsuspecting Flatpak users may lose the ability to install Linux apps without even realizing it and VirtualBox users won't be able to run Linux as a virtual machine. The team says it is currently working on making Linux (Beta) work on more CloudReady devices, but this will still mean a temporary loss for many users and older hardware will miss out altogether.
If you can't live without either Flatpak or VirtualBox, your only recourse is to disable updates, as CloudReady's blog post points out. This will be inconvenient enough for personal users, but it may well affect a good number of enterprise users too. To many, this will be seen as an unsavory example of a monopolistic company cutting off support for niche software experiences in order to force users into using first-party equivalents. In this case, Google might be hoping that this accelerates the sales of newer Chromebook hardware — something that hardly seems necessary right now.
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