Will the bungled Froyo rollout hurt Android and Google?

With rumors rife that the Android 2.2 Froyo update for the Droid X has been delayed by several weeks, it's a good time to ask: Will the bungled Froyo rollout hurt Android and Google in the long term? And if Froyo has been handled this badly, what happens when the really big upgrade happens, to Android 3.0, later this year?

DroidLife is reporting that it has heard rumors that the Froyo update for the Droid X, which was supposed to hit in early September, has been delayed for two to three weeks, due to issues with Microsoft Exchange.

There's no way to verify the rumors, and it may be that the Droid X will get Froyo within a week. But the rumors point out again the problematic nature of the Froyo update for all Android phones. As I've detailed in a previous blog post, phone owners had no idea when they would get an upgrade, or whether they would get an upgrade; some phones are unable to take advantage of Froyo features such as tethering; and even after Froyo was updated on many devices, Dell's Android tablet Dell's Android shipped with a very old version of Android --- 1.6.

The fact that the Droid X, arguably the premier Android device on the market today, still hasn't gotten Froyo and may not get it for three more weeks, only makes things worse.

To those who live and die by following technology, all of this sounds like a very big deal.

But in the long run, does it really matter? Will Android lose market share because operating system updates have been problematic?

In the short term, I believe it will have absolutely no effect. Most people who buy smartphones aren't thinking about operating system versions --- they just want a powerful, innovative, reliable phone with great apps and great hardware. The actual version of the operating system means nothing to them. Tell them they have version 2.1 of their phone's operating system rather than version 2.2, and you'll be likely greeted with the "I-can't-believe-you're-such-a-nerd" look that gadgetheads are so used to facing.

The result? The Android steamroller will keep on rolling, because no one will care.

In the long term, however, these problems could come back to haunt Google. When you pay several hundred dollars for a smartphone, even after a rebate, and to get that price you have been forced into buying a two-year service contract, you expect that your phone won't be outdated before your service contract expires.

If you have relatively new phone that can't be updated to a new version of Android, and that version of Android has lots of features you want, you won't be happy. If you have a friend with an Android phone who gets an update to the operating system many months before your phone does, you won't be happy, either. And customers who aren't happy often don't come back

For now, Android will continue to grow at a dramatic pace. But if within a year or so, the continuing problems haven't been fixed, expect there to be some trouble for Android.

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