Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is set to release the latest version of its new mobile operating system, Android, later this year. The new OS, entitled Jelly Bean, will be the fifth iteration of the company’s mobile software. The news quashes an earlier rumor which suggested the software may become available in the second quarter of this year. The setback in release date appears to stem from the slow adoption of its current OS, Ice Cream Sandwich, by mobile manufacturers. The release of a new OS this quickly could cause problems for the company as it seeks to remain competitive with Apple’s iOS devices.
The problems in Android stem from the lack of a unified design, something Apple have been using to their advantage. Google offers the system free to manufacturers and recoups its costs based on ad revenue and App sales. The problem comes as the large amount of manufacturers release a large amount of different devices leading to fragmentation in the market. Many manufacturer also change the set up of the OS, something Google fully allows, to suit their own needs leading to an inconsistent experience across devices running the software. The process of reworking Android for their devices leads many manufacturers to slow down their adoption of the new versions of the software.
According to Google’s online tracking of Android version only around 1.6% of devices in operation are running Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest offering. That system was launched with the Galaxy Nexus last October. At this stage several manufacturer have devices running the OS on the way including, Sony, HTC and presumably the Galaxy SIII, but if the company chooses to announce another updated version of the software it could leave manufacturers far behind the curve and customers unsure of what they’re getting. These problems are endemic in the release and distribution structure of Google’s OS.
Many were hoping that Google’s acquisition of Motorola would lead to greater consistency in the Android market. Speculation said that merger would bring a range of primed Motorola Android devices that would form a benchmark in the market, allowing other companies to remain in a more consistent line with software releases. Those rumors were scuppered by Google’s announcement that it would keep Motorola separate from its Android business, a move likely made to prevent anger from other manufacturers. The problem with Android is one of a clash of interests. Google is competing with Apple while the manufacturers are competing with each other as well. The result so far has been chaotic.