Will Google's advance PDKs shift blame for no-show Android updates?

Will Google's advance PDKs shift blame for no-show Android updates?

Summary: Google will give hardware OEMs a head start on supporting new Android versions by releasing PDKs -- Platform Development Kits -- several months ahead of the final release.

TOPICS: Android, Google

One of the most widespread criticisms I hear leveled against Android smartphones and tablets is that getting operating system updates for specific hardware can be next to impossible. In fact, about the only way you can be sure of being able to run the latest Android operating system is to buy a device with the OS already installed.

Who's to blame for this update mess is a matter for debate, but Google is putting in place a plan that should help it deflect the responsibility for absent updates away from itself and towards the hardware makers themselves.

At last week's I/O conference, Google announced that it would make available a Platform Development Kit (PDK) for chipset vendors and other hardware developers to allow them to prepare for and port new Android updates to their existing hardware lineup.

According to Hugo Barra, director of product management for Android, the new PDK is "like an SDK, but for Android hardware developers". The PDK will contain the necessary source code and low-level API documentation required for hardware OEMs to port Android over to their hardware. Barra said that the PDK would be available to hardware partners about two to three months before the platform release date for all future Android versions.

"PDK enables Android OEMs and chipset makers to innovate in parallel with Google," says Barra, "and ensures the latest Android release can be well-optimized for their hardware".

This sort of cooperation between Google and the hardware makers is long overdue because it's clear that the existing system wasn't working.

An example of how badly broken the existing system is comes in the form of the Motorola Droid RAZR. When this handset was released eight months ago it was revealed that it ran Android version 2.3.6 "Gingerbread" despite being unveiled on the exact same day as the Galaxy Nexus was released, a handset powered by the then new Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich". Then last week, while Google was showing off Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" at the I/O conference, Motorola -- a company that Google recently acquired -- belatedly released an Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" update for the Droid RAZR.

It remains to be seen whether the introduction of a PDK will actually encourage hardware makers to offer support for the latest version of Android sooner and to more hardware. We'll have to wait until the next major Android release to see if it actually works. However, releasing the PDK will allow Google to point the finger of blame at the OEMs when quizzed as to why updates for a particular handset aren't forthcoming.

This news comes shortly after Microsoft announced that its upcoming incarnation of Windows Phone -- Windows Phone 8 -- wouldn't be compatible with any existing Windows Phone 7.x hardware.

The only company that seems to have the issue of smartphone updates figured out is Apple, which makes updates available to supported hardware automatically as soon as they are available and allows end users to install them at their leisure.

Image source: Google.


Topics: Android, Google

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  • No it's 100% on google. They could contractually force the oems to update.

    They don't. And early pdk access doesn't change this one bit. It's just another deflection by google. They still have their blame thrower set on high.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Contractually force?

      Tell me, how exactly would Google "contractually force" OEMs to update? - Tell them that can't use the Android code if they don't provide updates? It's licensed as freely available open source code, they can't block OEMs from using it. They could restrict the use of their proprietary apps, but I doubt that'd be enough to force updates; I think that would just encourage OEMs to go to other platforms, ie Windows Phone.
      • Agreed.

        OEM's design the hardware as determine what features they want to "sell" with the phone. It is up to the OEMs to update the mobile OS as needed, provided the hardware supports it, not Google.
      • Yes exactly. The oems dont give a crap about updating sold phones and

        everyone including google knows it. The only way to get them to is to require it as part of licensing android. And yes I know google wont do this because google doesnt give a crap about sold phones either and we all know that too. Theyve shown it for a long time and we've known it for a long time. In fact google gives less of a crap than the oems. Whats it to google if a samsung user decides to buy an htc next time? If google cared theyd make the oems care. Im by no means suggesting they will, I dont think they will, Im just answering the question on whos to blame. google is at the root of it and all their attempts at deflection dont change that.
        Johnny Vegas
  • This won't make a difference.

    The OEMs are in no hurry to provide OS updates to handset buyers. First the carriers don't seem keen on the idea, mostly because there's absolutely no upside to them. More importantly, consumers really don't care either. Android devices seem to be selling well, if not profitably, for several vendors. And why spend [b]more[/b] money on an already low-margin device when you don't have your customers screaming for it?

    Let's not forget that only Samsung is making any money in, non-iPhone, Smartphones. HTC is essentially breaking even, and everyone else losing money. Spending more resources on an OS update that the carriers probably won't deploy quickly is pointless.
  • Upgrade your phone yourself

    Android is a REAL Operating System. You can upgrade it yourself, in fact install multiple versions of Android. There is NO CD/DVD slot on the device, but you can download a Distribution ZIP file and put it on the SD card or internal storage.

    I'm Still using a Motorola Droid 3 since I still have an Unlimited Data plan & 4G is scarce where I live ad work. "Official" updates have stopped due to the phones age, but I currently upgraded the phone to Jelly Bean myself.

    APPLE STOPPED updating their first 3 iPhones.