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Google invests in Neverware, a startup that’s turning dead PCs into Chromebooks

Neverware helps schools refresh discarded equipment

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Neverware, a New York City-based startup with a software platform that converts legacy computers into Chromebooks, announced today that it has raised a new round of investment led by Google. It won’t say the exact amount, but it will likely be more than the $6.5 million it raised in its last round.

The synergy between the two parties is obvious. CloudReady is built on the same open-source technology as Google’s Chrome OS. IT teams from corporations or schools that decide to use Neverware also get to leverage integration with ChromeEnterprise through Google’s cloud-based Admin console, simplifying and unifying remote management of the disparate models in their fleets.

Google wasn’t always the center of Neverware’s world. When I first covered the company back in 2011, it was focused on converting old machines into virtual desktops. Founder Jonathan Hefter showed me an aging Dell machine running Windows 7.1, Microsoft’s most modern operating system at the time. They brought this approach to public schools with some success, but installing a central server in schools didn’t scale very well.

By 2015, it was clear that schools were migrating to Chromebooks. Neverware decided to build on top of Google, shifting the hardware costs to the search giant’s cloud. Since CloudReady’s launch in 2015, more than 1,000 school districts across all 50 states, and in 21 countries around the world have used Neverware’s software to refurbish slow and discarded hardware, converting them to Chromebooks. (The Verge did a feature on the company’s success in the education market.)

The question now is how far can Chromebooks penetrate the enterprise, where Microsoft’s relationships run deep? More importantly, how many companies are interested in pinching pennies by using legacy hardware? Public schools are always looking to scrimp and save, but corporations may find that older machines bring additional security and compliance costs.