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Microsoft Chief Slams Google As Lollipop Hits 10 Percent

The newest version of Android -- Lollipop -- is catching on slowly, and Microsoft had something to say about Google's mobile operating system.
8 Android Security Concerns That Should Scare IT
8 Android Security Concerns That Should Scare IT
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Android 5.0 Lollipop continues its slow-and-steady pace of reaching consumer smartphones, but Microsoft doesn't think much of Google's upgrade path. Redmond recently torched Google's system update strategy at its Ignite conference.

Perhaps Microsoft ought to remember the story about stones and glass houses.

Delivering the latest operating system to smartphones isn't an easy thing. Apple, Google, and Microsoft aren't the only ones with skin in the game. The complex ecosystem puts numerous roadblocks in the way. All things considered, it's amazing how swiftly some system upgrades are adopted.

Apple's mechanism for delivering new versions of iOS to iPhones and iPads is to be lauded. The company generally makes updated iOS versions available to all users at the same time -- regardless of carrier or (to a lesser extent) device. The company made iOS 8 available in September. Since then, adoption just recently reached 81% in the shadow of the Apple Watch launch.

Apple has at least one more major iOS 8 update to provide before it focuses on iOS 9. That update, iOS 8.4, is already in beta and expected to reach consumers soon.

Google's methodology isn't quite so neat. In fact, it's downright messy.

Google doesn't have a central system for delivering system updates en masse. Instead, it relies on its handset and carrier partners to push the OS upgrades to end-user handsets. Each device requires its own rendition of the update for each carrier selling the device. Not only does Google need to approve the code, but so do the handset OEM and the carrier. The process isn't a swift one.

This is why, six months since its release, Android 5.0 Lollipop represents just 9.7% of Android devices accessing the Google Play Store. It's clear the increase in Lollipop's adoption rate comes from the recent wave of flagship devices that ship with Lollipop from the onset, rather than from carrier-distributed updates -- think HTC's One M9 and Samsung's Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

Older versions of Android continue to hold a firm place in the rankings.

For example, Android 4.4 KitKat is installed on about 39.8% of devices. Android versions 4.0 through 4.3, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, account for 39.2%. Androids 2.2 and 2.3 (Froyo and Gingerbread) total just 6%.

Microsoft's Windows chief, Terry Myerson, took aim at Google's distribution methodology.

"Google ships a big pile of … code, with no commitment to update your device," said Myerson at Microsoft's Ignite conference in Chicago this week. "Google takes no responsibility to update customer devices, leaving end-users and businesses increasingly exposed every day they use an Android device." (Some older versions of Android are less secure than newer versions.)

Myerson might want to look at Microsoft's updating history, however, which is hardly a friendly one.

[ Read about Android apps keeping track of users.]

The company debuted Windows Phone 7.0 in late 2010. That was followed by Windows Phone 7.1 and Windows Phone 7.5. Most devices shipped during these early years of the Windows Phone platform were able to update to Win7.5 directly from Microsoft, but some required carrier approval, which was often slow to arrive.

Microsoft broke everything with Windows 8.0. Devices running Windows Phone 7.5 and earlier were trapped with those older systems, left unable to get the newest code. Fast forward a couple of years, and now we're looking Windows 10 in the face. As with the Win8.0 update, not all phones can install the Windows 10 code. Those that can require a Microsoft Insider account. There's no word from Microsoft -- or its carrier and handset partners -- about how the existing base of Windows handsets will upgrade to Windows 10 once it is officially available.

It should be clear by now that cramming the latest code into existing smartphones is no easy task. None of the distribution models is perfect. The good news is, perhaps, that those who want the latest code can usually find it one way or another.

It goes without saying that enterprise employees should only use corporate-approved system updates.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing