Microsoft Forgets Glasses and Mirror, Trashes Google
Microsoft is preparing a monumental release with Windows 10, and it could easily be one of the biggest developments in operating system history. The company’s track record in desktop OS releases saw a significant dip with Windows 8, but they did an impressive job in assembling a new strategy for this next big piece of software. By big, we mean big: the new OS will seek better integration between all things Microsoft, from the Xbox One to their Windows phones and much more to come with an internet of things in the horizon.
Without taking a moral stance, one can objectively say that Microsoft’s current direction is focused towards a seamless and inventive future and that this future (regardless of Microsoft) could be enriching to all of us. Their recent Microsoft Build conference shone a light on many projects that shook the tech blogs with excitement, particularly their augmented reality approach and the disclosure of their new take on apps – Android and iOS apps, that is. That was, perhaps, the most important development to hit our newsfeed at XDA, for it means that Microsoft is once more betting on Android, their sworn rival. We don’t think it is a great thing, but we reckon consumers want it.
Moreover, Microsoft has recently trash-talked Android updates, going as far as saying Google simply ships a “big pile of… code” (yes, they were alluding to what you think they were). This is an attitude that is rather interesting coming from Microsoft, because they are a huge giant that knows how to operate and also knows how competitors operate. I want to touch on this to put Microsoft’s claim into proper context:
On the surface (a shallow one) Microsoft has a point: Android updates are not guaranteed to hit every single device, and the delivery time frame varies greatly depending on OEM and carrier. At the same time, slow updates can hurt the integrity of the OS in key areas such as security. We all heard about the webview controversy that rendered unpatched devices vulnerable, and this was a low-point in Android security that got talked about beyond belief. This is undebatable, Android as a whole suffers from poor update delivery. We recently published a Lollipop update roundup where this very problem was discussed, and we saw that the Lollipop delivery as a whole was indeed awful. And as I wrote in that feature, Google was guilty of putting out initial firmware that was simply not ready for primetime.
That being said, when you take Microsoft’s claim, put on your objectivity glasses and put their words into the panoramic context of Android and Windows Phone (or Windows for Desktop too, for that matter), you realize that this claim is flawed. The main thing to consider is that Android is open source, and Microsoft software is not. This distinction alone is behind many of the Android update criticisms you could make.
AOSP and Google are two different things, and while Google makes AOSP, AOSP is not what the Android world at large sees anyway. Microsoft claimed that Google takes no responsibility in updating “their devices”, but they in fact do. Nexus devices are, after all, updated – some better than others, and the Nexus 9 is kind of a disgrace at that – and those are the “Google devices”. Android One, GPE phones, and the like also do get updated. The other OEMs and what said OEMs do with Android software and their hardware are beyond Google’s direct responsibility. It’d be silly not to think that other OEMs, their affairs and what they do with Android updates aren’t in Google’s best interest, and Google has attempted to tighten up their guidelines to reduce fragmentation and thus minimize UX differences, design clashes and of course, update issues.
And Microsoft is not one to talk, either. They had made the conscious decision to leave users of Windows Phone 7.X behind when they released Windows 8. This was on top of the fact that Microsoft can handle their updates because they are pushing out their software to their hardware partners. Android, on the other hand, is different. The General Public License of Android’s Linux kernel is broken on so many instances that you can’t even begin thinking of an actual partnership between Google and many OEMs who simply put Android in their devices for a quick buck. It’d be crazy to think that Google has any control over the hundreds of chinese OEMs out there. And even if every OEM would have close ties with Google and attempted to push out updates uniformly, it would still be a disaster due to the sheer number of Android manufacturers and the monstrous diversity in Android handsets, some which come with things such as screen projectors that Google obviously did not intend with AOSP . The openness of Android leads to the experimentation that allows for such diversity, and ultimately, choice.
So you could (myopically) say that this is in fact Google’s fault, as they chose this system. If so, I support their decision. Android isn’t perfect, and here at XDA we are not shy about that. We criticize the shortcomings of the OS, and those in all of Google’s developments as well. However, without this model we wouldn’t be here discussing this. Microsoft knows all of this, and they willingly omit this to support a narrative. Would you blame Linus Torvalds if your favorite Linux distro didn’t incorporate the latest Linux kernel release in time? Didn’t think so.