Google is putting a temporary stay on feature updates to both its Chrome browser and Chromebooks for the foreseeable future due to ongoing coronavirus concerns. That's based on a recently spotted official announcement from the company.
The search giant's statement doesn't specifically mention coronavirus or COVID-19. But Google uses language in its announcement that's also present in other coronavirus-related announcements. It points to adjusted work schedules as the underlying reason for the 'pause'. Specifically, that's anywhere work has been brought to a standstill by social distancing guidelines.
Google says that it will continue to 'prioritize updates related to security'. And it says that those updates will be included over the lifespan of Chrome 80. Presumably, that also applies to Chrome OS 80. So any major security problems discovered during the pause should be fixed with patches across the board.
In the meantime, that's going to mean no new updates including features for Chrome or Chromebooks until the situation stemming from the spread of coronavirus can be brought more firmly under control.
Social distancing is impacting more than Chrome and Chromebooks for Google
Beyond the vague reason provided by Google, the decision to put Chrome development on pause probably stems from the fact that much of the search giant's workforce is now working from home. The company is also reportedly working on a nationwide coronavirus website to inform and help citizens in the US. As a combined result of those moves, Google's resources are likely stretched fairly thin.
The coronavirus pandemic has additionally led to much slower review times for apps in the Google Play Store. Google's making developers wait at least seven days for new or updated apps to be reviewed and published. On the streaming side of things, Google-affiliated YouTube is not only slowing down reviews of YouTube submissions. Those are also now fully automated via AI algorithms.
In both cases, as with the latest pause for Chromebooks and Chrome, the slowing of reviews is directly attributed to "adjusted work schedules."
Google's big mobile event for the year, its Google I/O developers conference, was canceled due to coronavirus concerns. The gathering typically draws in developers from around the globe, so hosting the event potentially presented a risk to attendees. But also to potentially for regions that those attendees would return to after the event.
For now, there's no end in sight for Google's delays and pauses
The launch of Chrome 81 for desktop platforms was initially set for March 17. Chrome OS devices such as Chromebooks were slated to start seeing the update on March 24. Pausing that entire cycle means that the releases won't just launch late. Any subsequent updates are likely to be far behind schedule as well.
As with other downticks in activity announced by Google, there's no definitive timeline in place for Chrome and Chromebooks either. The open-ended nature of the pause, as with those other delays, is primarily down to the nature of the threat that's being addressed. Namely, it falls back to uncertainty about when exactly the spread of coronavirus will cease to be perceived as a threat.