AT&T implies Google is to blame for slow roll out of Android 4.0
The battle to get Android 4.0 rolled out in order to upgrade existing smart phones has now turned to finger pointing as to exactly who is at fault. This has been building for a time, but has suddenly emerged into the spotlight based on recent comments from AT&T this week. There have been hints of this growing trouble over the past few months as to where the real problem lies in getting the latest version of the Android OS cleanly and quickly rolled out. It is those comments regarding “negotiated agreements” which seemed to have caused some problems.
Stephenson said, in response to a question from the audience. “Google kind of determines what platform gets the newest releases and when. Often times that’s a negotiated arrangement, and so that’s something we work at hard. We know that it’s important to our customers.”
A negotiated arrangement has been responded to by Google and a negotiated arrangement does not exist. So, the question comes up as to where the problems really lies with the Android fragmentation. The most recent reports are showing disappointing growth for Android 4.0 and the numbers are showing it is going to take a long time to get upgrades rolled out. Jean-Baptiste Queru is part of the Android Open Source Project (ASOP) and is in the know as to what is going on. From his Google+ page under “15 minutes, and 8 months” he lays out the waiting game to get things rolled out for a new Android OS. This is just the reality in the industry.
Now starts another 8-month waiting game. In over 10 years working on the software side of the cell phone industry, I’ve learned that it takes about 8 months between getting the software ready and seeing it widely deployed. Edit: Meaning, deployed on new devices.
But does it have to be. Once Google (or Microsoft) rolls out an updated OS, it first goes to the manufacturers so that they can make the necessary changes to the OS to support the chip set on the mobile device. That is to be expected and does take a certain amount of time to make sure it works correctly under testing conditions. It is after this point when things start to break down. Various manufacturers then add their pieces to the OS, such as a customized interface or other software add ons. Once they have finished with that, it is turned over to wireless carriers who then add their pieces to the puzzle as interface changes or added software to the mix. All of this take a lot of time to be done. Especially as the OS gets more complicated beyond the pure Ice Cream Sandwich released by Google.
All of this takes time and apparently is understood by Jean-Baptiste Queru as part of the process. There are some things which could be done in an effort to speed up the process, such as what Microsoft has done to move things forward quicker. But Android is Open Source and there in lies part of the problem. Manufacturers and wireless carriers are free to do pretty much anything they want to OS, all of which take time. So, why is AT&T pointing fingers at Google in the roll out process?
AT&T may be doing this as part of a bigger strategy to deflect blame away from the carrier which in the end is not really going to change public opinion. They have been trying to blame the FCC for their recent price hikes because of the failure of the T-Mobile deal. The reality is they probably would have raised their prices anyway and this is a smoke screen to deflect blame. The same thing applies to the slow Android roll out. The manufacturers are the first barrier to the roll out and then the wireless carriers are the second barrier to the roll out.
What would happen if the manufacturers and wireless carriers did not change or add to Android 4.0? We probably would not have the level of fragmentation we are seeing today.