There's no doubt that when it comes to updates, the Android platform is in a mess. While this mess doesn't seem to be throwing the brakes on activations, it does mean that existing Android users are being screwed out of the ability to run the latest version of Google's mobile OS.
Why? Well, my ZDNet colleagues have differing views. James Kendrick believes that it's all about the money, while Ed Bott sees it as a business model problem. I tend to think that it's a mixture of both issues. Money, of course, comes into the equation, but the business model factors of binding contracts and subsidized handsets compounds the problem.
But who can solve this update problem?
Only one company can save Android users from years more of update hell ... Google.
So, how can Google fix this mess? Is it by tightly controlling the handset hardware like Microsoft and Apple currently does? Or is it by adopting virtualization, like my colleague Jason Perlow suggests? No, it's far simpler than that.
Far, far simpler.
Google needs to market OS updatability as a key selling feature of its Nexus line of handsets. Furthermore, Google needs to guarantee that all Nexus handsets will be upgradable to the next major Android release.
Doing this would accomplish two things;
- It would give people who want an easy route to upgrading an easy choice when it came to choosing an Android handset.
- This move would put pressure on other hardware manufacturers to follow suit.
To make this work Google would need to do several things:
- Streamline the highly-complex update process, possibly by adopting virtualization
- Publish a minimum hardware spec that handset makers must follow
- Cut carriers out of the equation, or at least sideline them (like Apple has done with iOS), and possibly go as far as cutting the hardware makers out too (like Microsoft has done with Windows Phone)
- Discourage handset makers from locking bootloaders, thus encouraging the dev community and homebrew projects
- Discourage carrier branding and crapware (after all, all that bloatware isn't helping make Android handsets any safer)
Come on Google, help make updating Android handsets easier for owners! Only you can do that!
- James Kendrick: Android 4.0 updates: It is all about the money
- Ed Bott: Why Android updates are a mess: it's the business model
- Jason Perlow: Android Virtualization: It's Time
- 2011: The year of the Android OS
- Android 4.0 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’ tablet for $99? Maybe not
- Six Android issues that Google doesn’t want to address
- Kindle Fire and why 7-inch tablets suck
- Steve Jobs is right about tablets, right about RIM, wrong about Android, and kills off the “7-inch iPad” nonsense