Posted by: Frank | October 30, 2009

Concerned About Android Updates

Much, if not all, of the buzz in mobile tech this week has been about the Verizon Droid, which I wrote about last week as a seminal moment for Google’s Android operating system. As much as I am excited by seeing Verizon put their marketing muscle behind Android, I am also concerned about how Google appears to be tying upgrades to Android to wireless carriers.

Long time Windows Mobile users can tell you how frustrating it is to have the phone software be controlled by the carriers. The time between when Microsoft says a new version of Windows Mobile is available and when users can actually upgrade phones to the new version can vary wildly depending on what phone use and what carrier you use because the carriers are the gatekeepers for when and whether you get the software. Nothing is more frustrating than to learn that a new version of software will not be available for your phone and you will have to buy a new phone to have the latest and greatest.

Up until now this has not been an issue with Android because there has only been one carrier, T-Mobile, that has had phones with Android. Historically T-Mobile has done a good job of releasing new versions not too long after Google makes it known that they are available. However, now we have three carriers, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, with Android phones and as far as I know all the talk about Android V2 has been associated with Verizon’s phones. Ideally, all three carriers would make Android 2 available on the same date, which I think would be November 6, but we have yet to see whether that will happen. What if a carrier negotiates a deal with Google to exclusively have the latest version of the operating system before everyone else? In my opinion if Android updates are not consistently made available for all users regardless of carrier, users will suffer (which version do I have? when can I get it?) and the Android brand will suffer.

The confusion of when and whether users will be able to get new versions of Windows Mobile has been a huge problem for Microsoft. Google would do well to learn from Microsoft’s mistake and try not to repeat it.



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