updated 06:25 pm EST, Thu February 9, 2012
Motorola says Android too linked to hardware
Motorola was unusually critical of its likely future acquirer Google late Wednesday in an interview. Senior enterprise business VP Christy Wyatt claimed to PCMag that Google made timely Android OS updates difficult because of its tendency to target each major release against a reference phone like the Galaxy Nexus. Since the initial release only supported that hardware, no other Android partner could get started on drivers and other code they needed to get moving.
"The rest of the ecosystem doesn't see it until you see it," Wyatt said. "Hardware is by far the long pole in the tent, with multiple chipsets and multiple radio bands for multiple countries. It's a big machine to churn."
She added that the company couldn't be more specific on its Android 4.0 timing beyond earlier in the year due to carriers. Since they could control updates, not Motorola, the RAZR designer was subject to whether or not they wanted to upgrade it and what the timing would be.
The executive deflected criticism that it was Motorola's insistence on custom interface layers triggering the delays. She did, however, acknowledge that Android 4.0 and Chrome for Android might require a rethink of its desktop-like Webtop experience.
Motorola's complaint still partly deflects some of the responsibility. When a new Android build releases, it has to test and modify software unconnected to the hardware to ready upgrades. Phones that weren't full Google phones but which still have stock Android, such as the T-Mobile G2 and G2X, have still gotten updates relatively quickly even if not as fast as Nexus models. Many of the phones Motorola has released in the past two years were either shipping with an already obsolete version of Android or stopped getting updates within a few months.
The commentary, regardless of the answer, still points to Android having inherent problems with fast upgrades. Where iOS and Windows Phone owners usually get updates either immediately or within a few weeks, it suggests that even ideal conditions may delay an Android update by months for devices that Google doesn't make itself, if the update is allowed at all. Both Apple and Microsoft have tighter control of the OS pipeline and don't let carriers determine whether updates are available.