As Amber noted this week, Google are set to unleash the next version of Android, 2.3 dubbed Gingerbread, in the next few weeks. But how many Android owners will ever see it?
Apple’s tight grip over the iPhone means they control iOS updates, and users can get them the moment they are released (unless their device is unsupported). Microsoft have claimed that Windows Phone 7 will be just the same, so you’ll always have the latest version. That means security holes get plugged as fast as possible, and bug fixes come whenever necessary. Having the operating system maker control the software makes a lot of sense, as smartphones are basically computers. You might buy a Dell, but who would want Dell acting as a middleman between you and Microsoft?
Google, curiously, have allowed phone network companies to take control of Android. This means users have to wait for their providers to update the OS. It seems the phone companies have little motivation to do this – for them it’s better if you just buy a new phone – so Android owners can wait months for updates. Sometimes the handsets may not be able to handle the newer version, of course, but that’s by no means the whole issue.
The fragmentation of Android means your pocket computer is being held back by companies who apparently don’t have your best interests at heart. Now that Google’s Nexus One phone has been killed off, will they ever again try to wrestle back control of their otherwise excellent mobile OS? Could this issue give Microsoft the edge they need to become a mobile player again?