One of the most frustrating parts of the Android ecosystem is the often long delay between the time that Google releases and updated version of Android and the time it's delivered to ernd-users' phones and tablets. Motorola has been no stranger to these delays, often waiting months before sending out major revisions to Android. Christy Wyatt, Senior Vice President of Motorola's Enterprise Business unit, offered and explanation to PC World: it's the myriad of hardware differences between phone models that makes upgrades take so long.
"When Google does a release of the software... they do a version of the software for whatever phone they just shipped. The rest of the ecosystem doesn't see it until you see it. Hardware is by far the long pole in the tent, with multiple chipsets and multiple radio bands for multiple countries," said Wyatt. That's certainly true: with the exception of development devices, manufacturers don't have access to Android's open-source code any faster than regular users and developers do. Wyatt also mentioned that Motorola's custom software takes a long time to modify for a new Android release.
But there's a problem with this justification. I don't wish to single Motorola out, since most major manufacturers are guilty of the same thing. But the explanation provided to PC World is baloney. Yes, Android's AOSP source code is released to everyone at the same time. So why is it that independent developers and modders, usually working alone, in their spare time and for no greater reward than the thanks of their peers, can get updates out months faster than an international corporation with vast resources and thousands of employees? Why must Android users void there warranties to get timely updates, or features that aren't included by default?
And perhaps most of all, if Motorola's additions to the core Android software are holding up the update process, why are they still there? I can understand that value-adds like extra encryption and MotoSync are important to Motorola's strategy, but I have never, ever seen a reader or any of my fellows proclaim, "man, those Moto icons and launcher make my phone so much better!" Why must Motorola continue to bog down a perfectly good user experience with unnecessary add-ons, especially if it makes their devices less valuable with the understanding that updates will come late, or not at all? Didn't you promise (quite erroneously) that retail devices would launch with ICS within six weeks of the code becoming available?
Motorola's about to be purchased outright by Google. If that doesn't inspire you to use a dog food strategy (i.e., sticking with your own products) I don't know what will. It's entirely possible, nay likely, that the next developer device will be coming from Motorola. The company should take the opportunity to extend a more developer and consumer-friendly policy to all their upcoming phones and tablets.
Oh, and unlock your freaking bootloaders.