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What to Blame for Google Android Delays

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Steve Jobs called it "fragmentation." Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Chairman Eric Schmidt calls it "differentiation."

Schmidt clarifies the distinction: "Differentiation is positive, fragmentation is negative." Regardless of what you call it, it's the culprit behind why Android upgrades sometimes take so long for users eagerly awaiting the latest and greatest version of the mobile OS.

Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) heavy focus on integration allows it to roll out iOS updates seamlessly in comparison with the staggered updates that the Android army is faced with -- the newest of which is version 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, which will ambitiously unify smartphones and tablets.

Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) exec Christy Wyatt recently gave some insight to PCMag on why her company's potential parent-to-be sees holdups. Whenever Android gets a major update, Google only releases a version that's optimized for "whatever phone they just shipped," which presumably refers to its Nexus family that serves as a benchmark for the rest of the Android world. In this case, it would be the Samsung-built Galaxy Nexus.

She added: "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." There are so many hardware configurations floating around out there that have different processors and other varying hardware specs that it's not realistic to implement a coordinated global rollout simultaneously.

Even beyond the hardware lies the fact that OEMs and wireless carriers have a bad habit of throwing their own layers of customized software on top in the name of "differentiation," further bogging down the upgrade process.

In contrast, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows Phone supports only one processor: Qualcomm's (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) Snapdragon lineup. That's a monogamous affair, and Microsoft has no intention of opening up WP's doors to other chipmakers, although it does work with multiple OEMs beyond its main flame Nokia to pump out devices.

Wyatt unsurprisingly said Motorola has no intentions of hopping onboard the WP train, as her company is all Android, all the time. That's something that won't be changing, especially if this deal ever goes through.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu has sold bullish put spreads on Qualcomm. He owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Qualcomm, Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Apple, and Microsoft and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2012, at 9:40 PM, Davewrite wrote:

    besides fragmentation, the other reason there's no incentive for the android makers to give updates. They would rather you buy new phones.

    Traditional phone OEMS treat phones like simple appliances (like selling coffee makers) when they sell a phone that's it -- it's out of their store and they've forgotten about it , updates (which is also important for malware protection) , deep customer support for applications, education for complex functions etc are not in their DNA unlike computer manufacturers like Apple. Smartphones today are like computers and have huge support costs, traditional phone OEMs don't have the infrastructure or the willingness to spend money to do the job properly.

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2012, at 11:29 PM, techy46 wrote:

    That's a monogamous affair, and Microsoft has no intention of opening up WP's doors to other chipmakers......

    If you fools are going to educate, amuse and enrich then you ought to at least report the TRUTH. Microsoft has purposeful intentions of offering WP8 Apollo for n-core processors from all comers including ARM and Intel's Atoms. Apple has no intentions on offering the iToys on any chips other then their own ARM An designs.

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