Waiting for that Motorola ATRIX update to Ice Cream Sandwich, or holding out hope that your RAZR will be bumped up sooner than expected? Think again. According to Christy Wyatt, a senior vice president of Motorola’s Enterprise Business Unit, the blame is on Google. More specifically, the blame is on Google allowing unmitigated variation in its Android hardware lines.
Wyatt says, “When Google does a release of the software … they do a version of the software for whatever phone they just shipped. The rest of the ecosystem doesn’t see it until you see it. 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.”
This means that the open sourced code available to manufacturers for each major Android release is based on the hardware they used in their latest Nexus device. For the Nexus One, this was Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor; for the Nexus S it was Samsung’s Hummingbird; for the Galaxy Nexus it is Texas Instruments’ OMAP chipset.
But even once the manufacturers successfully port the code over — ensuring hardware-level things like WiFi and video playback work as expected — there’s the alteration of custom skins to suit the new code. After that, the finished code is sent to the carriers for further review, and more tweaks. Wyatt claims that Motorola does this faster than anyone else: “More than once we’ve come out as the fastest to get to market with an upgrade.”
But Motorola also uses multiple CPU variations in their devices: in just the past year they’re incorporated chips from Nvidia and Texas Instruments. They also accept that users want their updates unfettered by “bloat,” but they see features like Smart Actions and high-grade Enterprise support as differentiators in the crowded Android market.
Whether the release of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will speed up this process at all remains to be seen. Motorola is in the process of being engulfed by Google, so there’s a chance they may have first dibs at the new code. We don’t care, though: we just want our updates, and we want them now.