Google Needs to Move Faster With Android

by Stephen Fluin 2012.11.29

Google needs to move faster with Android and adopt a fixed release cycle. The recent launch of Android 4.2 caused several issues for Nexus device users. Everything from experiencing new sources of lag and stutter in the user experience, to completely losing December in the contact application. Some may take this as an indication that Google needs to move slower with their Android releases and perform additional testing stagegates. My feeling is that this is the exact opposite of what they should do. Google, and modern software development in general, benefits from going faster.

What I mean by going faster is building more frequent rolling updates to the platform that do not require user intervention. Chrome for Windows/Linux/Mac is the gold standard representing this ideal. Chrome development happens in the open, meaning all source code for the application is developped using open source licensing, and is immediately availlable after developers commit it to the Chromium project. The Chrome team also has a fixed release cycle, meaning that every 6 weeks all of the users of the software will receive an update. Users can additionally opt in to what they call the Beta or Developer channel to get early access to features, in exchange for giving up stability.

If Android moved to a fixed release cycle, it would have many benefits. First of all, Partners such as Carriers, Manufacturers would be able to develop standardized processes around the adoption of Android. More frequent, smaller updates to the Android platform would force Google to improve their update capabilities. Right now non-Google Android devices are lucky if they are upgraded for a full year after launch. If these devices were build and planned with the expectation of a 6 week release cycle, Google would be forced to improve the robustness, speed, and quality of the Android update mechanism. Making this process transparent and irrelevant to users would be a huge win for the Android platform in general and would continue to encourage user adoption.