Will the Carriers be Android’s Downfall?

While reading Google’s latest manifesto of what it means to be open, I am concerned that while Google is proclaiming that “Open systems Win,” that is not necessarily a money making proposition or  a differentiator for wireless carriers. Many of you who follow Android are also keenly aware of the Linux market and its storied fragmentation of literally thousands of different distros, could this be possible for Android?

With the recent introduction of Android 2.0 and Verizon‘s exclusivity, this has become a major issue for consumers, especially while several of Sprint‘s and T-Mobile‘s handsets languish on 1.5 and 1.6 respectfully.  To say the least, we are tired of waiting.  Yes, I left TMO for VZ to get the Moto Droid but even early adopters like me can afford to do this every few years, if at all, with the ETF and upfront costs it takes to get the new phones.  And the carriers are not at total fault here, but with their partnerships with HTC, Motorola, and Samsung ,they have virtually locked up Android for disparate hardware certifications, various proprietary drivers, and klugey UI’s.

Another main unintentional consequence is what it is doing to the Android Market and our beloved apps (it’s still the software Stupid).  Applications are suffering in quality and updates because developers are having to decide which version of Android they want to maintain and support – and based on the comments above, along with that goes a carrier vote, as well.

No, I believe that Google is and has been patiently waiting on the sidelines to see what critical mass Android will hit and it is now near the tipping point of going mainstream.  The Nexus One photos and information leakage is not a coincidence based on the context of Android users making it known they want a carrier agnostic, pure Android phone with updates managed by Google, and a consistent UI.  Whether the N1 actually turns out to be that phone remains to be seen, but I believe it is the first of many steps in the right direction.

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