The Journey for Ice Cream Sandwich
The Android Landscape
I know I am not the only one that loves Android. It has continued to get better over time and with ICS it took a major leap in the right direction. There have never been a lack of custom roms, launchers, theme packs, and tweaks to make Android what ever you want it to be. There are even WP7 Launchers that could fool Balmer himself. Google has made Android all things to all people, thats why it has gained so much popularity. When ever Google releases the source code for Android, regardless of version, the development community goes crazy. This is why Android has blossomed so quickly. CyanogenMod and XDA are prime examples of developer communities that create polished products on a reasonable time line, for anyone to enjoy. From the software side they seem create and innovate at a brisk pace that the traditional manufactures lack.
This innovation come from two sources, a small amount of these developer who work full time, and a vast sea of enthusiasts and Android followers. These are people like me who have fulltime jobs, and personal lives with obligations other than writing custom roms that will be distributed for free. Never the less they get finished, distributed, and see wide adoption from Android owners all over the globe.
The Blame Game
If Individual developers, and the community are able to take a bare bones build of Android, tweak it , customize it, and change it. Then distribute it all over the world via the Internet. Not to mention continue to support their roms for older devices, then why do Motorola, LG, HTC, and Samsung continue to push back update schedules for FLAGSHIP models like the Razr, Bionic, Galaxy S 2, Spectrum and Rezound. Motorla especially has no reason to push back their updates considering their close relationship with Google and the Carriers, mainly Verizon. Motorola and Verizon have been in bed together since the Droid 1 was launched. We have seen the same dynamic with Samsung and AT&T, and of course HTC and Tmobile. Who worked together for the G1 and G2, but yet a host of other devices still get stuck in the storm of mismanaged Android updates.
While carriers cite manufactures for delays due to their slow development and the need for real world testing. Manufactures cite the need for "differentiation" and hardware problems for their slow adoption to new builds of Android. While the developer community is hard at work porting Android to THE HP TOUCHPAD. One developer has even managed to shoehorn a fully functioning build of Android on to a MOTOActiv sports watch, yet the Razr did no launch with ICS.
As a benchmark Motorla Mobility has roughly 19,000 employees, and is worth around 12 billion dollars. Yet they release statements indicating problems getting current builds of Android running chip sets other than those chosen by Google for the Nexus device. As a major player in the smart phone market it seems hard to believe they are not equipped with the resources to over come this problem quickly. There are independent developers overcoming the same problems at a much faster pace, and they stand to loose no money by failing to deliver. Why, with such a larger pool of resources, and with software being an integral part of their business model can they not push updates in a timely manner.
Profits vs. Promises
Meanwhile HTC has announced three very competitive devices, under the label of "The One Series". All three models will launch with Sense 4.0 atop ICS, yet older handsets are forgotten or "promised" updates, with no ETA. While HTC was creating the Rezound they must have been planning/crafting Sense 4.0 in order to have ready by April for the One Line. Yet there is still no signs of an OTA update for the Rezound. It would seem that HTC makes phones that "get you" as long as you are willing to buy their newest device ever few months. Even though they have committed to a slower build out of the phone lines, they still have dozens of old handsets being sold around the world. Each becoming more obsolete by the day. Clearly they have to profit from their efforts but at some point manufactures have to realize brand loyalty turns into profits, just look at Apple. They not only release new versions or their OS, but quickly send out patches and bug fixes as problems arise. They also have a clearly definable update schedule for software and hardware. They stay semi-transparent with their update schedules and that is more than most can claim.
Not every phone can receive updates that is clear, hardware is progressing more quickly by the month. There are in fact real limitations when pairing software with hardware, but at what point do we accept that something just can't be done? If the customer accepts that their phone is truly dated and obsolete they have no choice but to purchase a new device, but this is a risky path for manufactures to take. There is a clear line that exists in the telecom world. On one side of that line stands innovation. On the other side stands profits. Innovate to quickly and you loose profits. Innovate to slowly and you loose profits. Not every customer can be an early adopter, but no customer wants to be forgotten. When you purchase a new device you are committing to a brand. If that brand doesn't honor that commitment with updates they will have an exodus of customers. Where many fit into that picture is unknown right now, but we may find out shortly as update schedules solidify or disintegrate.