Updates to Android Devices

At #io12 Hugo Barra announced the new Android Platform Development Kit. The PDK was described as helping hardware developers port Jelly Bean to their devices and was said to be available “two to three months before the platform release date”, and that selected hardware partners had been given access to the JB PDK a few weeks before #io12 (around the 30min mark in the video below).

Personally I felt it was this years attempt to reassure users their devices would get updates after last years attempt (The 18 month update guarantee) failed so miserably. Remembering the original Android PDK (which disappeared sometime around the Honeycomb release) I had some hope that it might help speed up the update release cycle by offering OEMs some tangible practical help.

So has anyone noticed any benefit? I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy SIII, the current flagship device from what is said to be the most prominent Android hardware manufacturer (and so I’d guess they’d be in the pre-IO group), yet we’re nearly 3 months down the road from the Jelly Bean platform release date and it’s still on Ice Cream Sandwich. Same for my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1; It has 2GB of RAM, a quad core processor, and so easily has the power to support JB, but, alas, once again, it’s currently stuck on Ice Cream Sandwich.

This makes me wonder whether Google have decided to go the whole hog and offer to take over Android updates. This could be the reason we’re seeing rumours of multiple Nexus devices; Nexus devices could no longer be about a single Google partner, they could become Google saying “Build to this Nexus spec and we’ll handle OS updates” (i.e. the same situation as Windows Phone).

Whether this is a short term offer to show OEMs the benefit of devices which get timely updates in terms of sales, or whether it’s the start of Google moving from a partner-per-release to a reference-design-per-release and supporting any approved OEM who adopts it is something I don’t know, but personally, if Google did make that change I’d welcome it, and I don’t think I’d be alone.