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We're not killing Chrome OS ... not until 2020, anyway – says Google

Lightweight netbook OS will get updates for another five years

Google hopes to ease fears that its Chrome OS is not long for this world.

The Mountain View ad giant said on Monday that it has no immediate plans to kill off Chrome OS nor the army of lightweight Chromebook PCs it has spawned: the web goliath has promised a "regular six-week software cycle and guaranteed auto-updates for five years" for the operating system.

After that, of course, who knows? Maybe it'll find a comfy spot on the shelf next to Google Reader, Google Wave, Google Code, and Google Talk.

"Over the last few days, there's been some confusion about the future of Chrome OS and Chromebooks based on speculation that Chrome OS will be folded into Android," blogged Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google senior vice president for Android, Chrome OS, and Chromecast.

"While we've been working on ways to bring together the best of both operating systems, there's no plan to phase out Chrome OS."

This followed rumors that Google was going to "fold" Chrome OS into Android to form a single operating system that was mobile and laptop friendly.

It was speculated that this effort would focus Google engineers on the Chrome-droid hybrid, and put Chrome OS and the open-source Chromium project – the Linux-powered basis of Chrome OS – on the back burner.

This drew outcry from folks who feared that in the process of merging the two operating systems, Google will mothball a pretty secure lightweight desktop OS (Chromium) in favor of developing a vulnerability-riddled phone platform (Android).

Lockheimer has been the point man for Google's response, issuing public denials that Chrome OS was going to be phased out in favor of a PC-flavored build of Android.

Designed for low-cost lightweight notebooks, Chrome OS relies in large part on in-browser applications that are isolated into sandboxes that limit their reach to other components. Google estimates that 30,000 Chrome OS devices are activated every day in US schools.

Even in issuing the denial, Lockheimer noted that Google was indeed looking to integrate more of Android into Chrome OS. He noted moves such as last year's launch of the App Runtime for Chrome (ARC) tool allowing Chromebooks to run Android mobile applications.

"We have plans to release even more features for Chrome OS," the Google senior VP said, "such as a new media player, a visual refresh based on Material Design, improved performance, and of course, a continued focus on security."

What that means for the future of Chrome OS remains to be seen. In the meantime, however, the Chocolate Factory stresses that the OS isn't going anywhere. Well, not for another five years, anyway. ®

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