Consumers should not be expected to deliver repeat buying opportunities for mobile operating systems in process

Android may be the leader in the mobile operating system popularity contest, but it shouldn’t take rooting a tablet or smart phone to migrate from JellyBean to KitKat or, most recently, Lollipop. Nevertheless, the only process this writer can find to upgrade a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2.1 from Android 4.1.2, JellyBean to KitKat is to root the device.

Perhaps it would help readers to better understand the point by mentioning why an upgrade makes sense for this Samsung device. The multi-tasking capabilities available with JellyBean pale in comparison with the advances Android has made and included with KitKat. Why should consumers have to pay for improvements to features already available in an older version of an operating system?

Apple, in contrast, consistently offers a free-of-charge upgrade to the latest version of their iOS operating system. Not all of these upgrades go smoothly, but, if nothing else, Apple iPhone and iPad customers are relieved of the necessity of simply “repeat buying” a tablet or a smart phone they already own, for what amounts to no more than an enhancement to features already offered to them.

If one follows the reasoning here it should be plausible to attribute some of the pace of deceleration in consumer appetite for smart phones and tablets to a pervasive dissatisfaction with “half baked” feature sets. Samsung, to cite merely one Android OEM, has recently reported on this deceleration, and received a lot of investor punishment as the result. But as long as consumers have no option but to engage in a complex procedure to decouple a piece of hardware from its original operating system, it’s very likely consumer dissatisfaction will continue to mount and sales will continue to plummet.

This is regrettable. In fact, the multi-tasking improvement in Android KitKat is substantial and likely to be well received by even average consumers of these devices. In turn, should these upgrades be made available without additional charge to existing customers, sales should pick up. Android OEMs will realize the financial benefit. Enterprise customers, with a clear need for multi-tasking will be more likely to purchase the hardware, rounding off the benefit for the whole Android ecosystem.

The message for early stage ISVs is to think long and hard about the upgrade path consumers will have to traverse as new features are rolled into existing, core, products. In this writer’s opinion, “Ready, Fire, Aim” cannot be used as an excuse to justify raising consumers costs when limitations with advertised features are merely corrected.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

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