Within the last 24 hours, Motorola Mobility have quietly amended the Android update master list for all devices to exclude three major Android devices from long-promised Ice Cream Sandwich updates, chief among them two former flagships in the Motorola Atrix carried by AT&T in the US and the Motorola Photon carried by Sprint, while the Motorola Electrify was previously launched by U.S. Cellular. Previously, each device was to receive ICS by the beginning of the third quarter of the year, before the updates were further delayed to the fourth quarter until yesterday’s quiet update that confirmed each respective device would stay on Gingerbread.
While Motorola have yet to officially issue a statement on the matter, the fact that they are dropping support for three devices that are more than fully capable of running Android Ice Cream Sandwich may lie more with the way they were developed and who spearheaded their development, as all three devices were released during Motorola’s transitional period where the company was run by ex-Qualcomm head Sanjay Jha, who also led development of the Atrix and Photon 4G by forging new agreements with AT&T and Sprint and also gave rise to the now dead Webtop platform.
Since the Atrix 4G and its derivatives in the Photon 4G/Electrify were also able to use the first-generation Webtop software to use desktop-class Firefox and run Adobe Flash as well as the goal for more Linux development along with selling Lapdocks as netbook/laptop alternatives, the hybrid initiative became stuck in limbo before during and after the Google purchase, greatly affecting its future viability as a dedicated software platform.
As Motorola Mobility was purchased by Google last year, Motorola’s development activity has been considerably impacted by the purchase and subsequent integration of the company by Google, chief among the issues being the considerable delays in rolling out updates for devices released before the purchase, with Motorola only recently addressing the issues during recent product launches fro the RAZR M and Intel-based derivative in the RAZR i.
As Google seeks to kill off any Motorola Mobility initiatives that it feels are unnecessary or get in the way of its own goals, the death of Webtop may have also triggered a redirection of development resources away from devices that were built around support for the software such as the Atrix and Photon 4G and towards newer devices at the expense of those customers that still held on to the aforementioned phones, either because new agreements were signed for those devices that hinged on them being updated to Ice Cream Sandwich or owners wanted to keep those devices because of the Webtop support and relative expense of the Lapdock accessories.
Of course, Google and Motorola now have to deal with the ire of those owners that they’ve effectively abandoned because of the lack of transparency regarding the status of ICS updates for the Atrix 4G and the Photon 4G/Electrify, ironic considering this week’s earlier open letter to Motorola Droid Bionic owners which effectively reiterated previous promises to deliver ICS to that device and asked for more time to deliver the update, while Atrix 4G/Photon 4G owners have yet to receive a valid explanation on why their ICS updates were dropped.
Of course, this is not new behavior for Motorola, and it actually might get worse due to their new rebate program recently enacted where owners of Motorola devices that have not been updated to either ICS or Jelly Bean are entitled to a $100 rebate on their next device, which is nearly worthless on its face due to the increased cost of newer devices compared to the previous generation of Motorola Android smartphones.
In realistic terms, the rebate provides little if any comfort for those affected as the majority of Atrix 4G/Photon 4G/Electrify owners are on still active contracts with no real way out of their now obsolete devices without considerable expense, and that dishonor should be enough to drive many potential customers away from Motorola. If a company cannot be trusted to keep their previous promises, how can they reasonably be expected to keep future commitments?