Google is starting to have a bunch of problems that seem to get worse, not better, with time, and they are all pretty much related. It all comes down to the fact that Google lets anyone do what they want with Android. Android is open source, and I still prefer it this way, but it could’ve still remained open source, just like Chrome/Chromium, and yet still be fully in control of it.
Android should’ve worked just like Chrome and Chromium. Offer a fully open source version that you mostly keep in alpha mode (Chromium), that anyone can use or fork (but in reality won’t), and a “Google Android” – just like Chrome/ChromeOS – that nobody gets to change, and that they promote to the world, and even update themselves for all devices. ChromeOS works exactly like that, and that’s how Android should’ve worked, too.
This is becoming a problem now because manufacturers are trying to build ever more complex platforms of their own on top of Android, and some of them even completely bypass Google, like Amazon and B&N, and offer their own app stores. Plus they don’t have to answer to Google for any hardware requirements. Google says that they are ok with it, because after all Android is open source, but they really aren’t because they’d prefer people just use their Android.
And that’s exactly the problem here. Google made a huge mistake from the very beginning by not promoting the Android brand themselves, so now most consumers don’t even know that they are buying an “Android” device. And that’s because the manufacturers themselves have no interest in promoting the Android brand too much, other than just mentioning that they have the latest version (if that’s even the case).
Now Google is in the situation of acting too little too late, not just in making Android a branding powerhouse of theirs, but also in fixing the increased complexity of the Android ecosystem, with all the manufacturers skinning their own versions, and being responsible with all the updates.
If Google would’ve used the Chromium/Chrome strategy, and have say an Androidum version that they keep open source and open for everyone, but constantly “in-development”, and a “stable” version of “Android” that nobody but Google themselves gets to modify, and they would handle all the updates, just like for Chrome and ChromeOS, Google would be in a totally different place with Android right now. I’m still hoping they have something big upcoming that will fix most of these issues, but hopefully it won’t take more than a couple of years.