When Microsoft announced Windows 11, one of the biggest concerns was around the hardware requirements. They were surprisingly steep, even leaving us here in the office with only 2 computers that would be upgraded to Windows 11. That left us with at least a dozen machines that were going to be left behind. This week, it appears that Google is looking to help repurpose those computers with Chrome OS Flex.
Older computers being left behind
For some people, the problem is similar to ours, where Windows 11 will not install on older but perfectly functional computers. Microsoft has left us with few choices, once Windows 10 falls out of its lifecycle in 2025. One is that we live with an expired operating system that will no longer be guaranteed security updates. This is obviously a terrible idea, especially if you're using the computer online. You'll be vulnerable to a growing number of threats.
You can also install Windows 11 the long way, using an ISO. This allows you to bypass the hardware verification, but it also leaves you without the ability to get updates. So, it doesn't exactly solve the issue of staying on Windows 10, since you'll still be vulnerable to attacks from the outside world.
On the Apple side of the fence, you might have a Mac that is unable to be installed to the latest version of macOS. Once again, this isn't necessarily an immediate problem, but in the end, you'll be in the same situation. The OS will eventually go out of service, and security updates will stop being available.
Chrome OS Flex
Google wants to solve all of these problems with a new build of Chrome OS called Chrome OS Flex. The company is looking to position this new build as the solution to older computers that are no longer supported by their native operating system. This could potentially give new life to computers that are completely functional, but Apple and Microsoft have decided that they no longer deserve to live. The intention is for consumers and IT departments to be able to install this build themselves, rather than buying a computer with Chrome OS pre-installed.
Google intends to keep Flex on the same release schedule as the prime Chrome OS build, so users won't feel like they have been left behind by another company. This is not the first time that Chrome OS has been available on computers that are not officially supported. There was a company called CloudReady that maintained a public build, but that company was unfortunately purchased by Google, turning it into Chrome Enterprise.
Now, that technology will be used to release Chrome OS Flex. Flex will replace Chrome Enterprise, as well as CloudReady home, school, and enterprise builds as soon as the builds are stable enough for regular usage. But, unlike CloudReady, Flex will add official support for a number of missing Google tools, such as Google Assistant, Chrome itself, and Nearby Sharing. There will also be a development environment for engineers to be able to use it for building software.
Currently there is no release schedule for the transition from CloudReady to Chrome OS Flex, but early access is available now.