updated 03:12 pm EDT, Tue May 8, 2012
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A little war of words appears to be brewing between Google and AT&T, with representatives from each company pointing the finger at the other over the seemingly haphazard manner in which Android phones receive OS updates. In response to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson's recent statements blaming Google for the slow update pace, Google has fired back, telling 9to5 Google that perhaps Stephenson doesn't fully understand the nature of the update process.
Speaking at the Milken Institute's 2012 Global Conference, Stephenson was asked by an audience member about the unpredictable nature of Android updates. Stephenson's answer shifted blame for the problem away from AT&T, saying that "Google determines what platform gets the newest releases and when," and blaming delays on negotiated agreements between Google and manufacturers.
Google responded yesterday, telling 9to5 Google that "Mr. Stephenson’s carefully-worded quote caught our attention and frankly we don’t understand what he is referring to. Google does not have any agreements in place that require a negotiation before a handset launches. Google has always made the latest release of Android available as open source at source.android.com as soon as the first device based on it has launched. This way, we know the software runs error-free on hardware that has been accepted and approved by manufacturers, operators and regulatory agencies such as the FCC. We then release it to the world."
This is not the first time Stephenson's comments have made waves. In the same on-stage interview, Milken also said that Apple's iMessage could likely disrupt AT&T's text message revenue stream.
OS fragmentation has been an ongoing issue for Android since the operating system's debut. An upgrade to the newest version of Android is often a major selling point for a handset, and Google representatives have in the past blamed upgrade delays on carriers. Perhaps looking to remove any potential carrier barriers, Google has begun selling the Galaxy Nexus on the Devices section of the Google Play store. The device, unencumbered by any additional skinning or carrier add-ons, provides a pure Android 4.0 experience, which could prove a draw to some users.