This is fun. The number one iOS carrier duking it out with the company behind the world’s most popular smartphone operating system. Last month, Google’s lead for the Android Open Source Project, Jean-Baptiste Queru, more or less blamed carriers (see comments) for Android’s upgrade woes. Yesterday, AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson retaliated, blaming Google for the delays. And yes, Google already responded to that, too.
Last month, Jean-Baptiste Queru pointed fingers at the carriers, stating the carriers’ approval processes for updates is what’s causing the delays. Considering the swiftness with which small, non-funded independent developers can support devices, this doesn’t seem like quite a stretch. The massive delays caused by carriers with Windows Phone 7 updates further confirm this line of reasoning.
During a Q&A session, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson turned this reasoning around, blaming Google instead. “Google determines what platform gets the newest releases and when. A lot of times, that’s a negotiated arrangement and that’s something we work at hard. We know that’s important to our customers,” he explained, “That’s kind of an ambiguous answer because I can’t give you a direct answer in this setting.”
9to5Google got a statement from Google on this one. “Mr. Stephenson’s carefully worded quote caught our attention and frankly we don’t understand what he is referring to,” the company stated, “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.”
It’s a little odd indeed, since Google’s description of the process seems to be in line with reality. On top of that, I have more reason to believe Queru (for obvious reasons) than the CEO of a large American carrier – let’s face it, as far as companies go, it doesn’t get much lower than a mobile phone carrier. This does raise an interesting question: why would Stephenson come up with such nonsense?
And right there, the painting me red and calling me a girl scout makes an appearance again. Right after blaming Google for the lack of Android updates on AT&T, he dives into a song of praise for Windows Phone 7, how excited he is about it, and oh, did you know Android has security problems? Oh right, there we are. Sometimes I wonder just how stupid do these CEOs think we are?
One thing that’s not been mentioned yet here – most likely because neither Google nor AT&T wants to piss them off – is the device manufacturers. HTC, Samsung, Sony – all these guys make these hideous skins and “value-add” software which need to be ported to the new Android release. Since they think they’re making their devices better with their crappy software, they refuse to, you know, just stop doing it (for new devices – they can’t just take it away from consumers on existing devices).
It’s just too many players on the field. Google needs to code the update, release the first device, and get the source code ready for release. Then there’s the OEMs who need to get that new code working on their gazillion slightly different devices, after which they have to port over their own software and get that working. Once that’s done, the carriers come along and they have to certify and test the software on all their devices and on their network. In the meantime, neither the carriers nor the OEMs are in any kind of hurry with these processes – they’d much rather sell new devices.
It’s a process that needs to be changed at almost every level. The chances of this happening are pretty much zero.