Friday, 26 June 2015

Googles Microsoft Moment

It had to happen one day, but it appears that the 'sooner' in the expression 'sooner rather than later', is now .... Google have become an old I.T. firm. They have in fact reached what I am calling their 'Microsoft Moment'.

That is the moment when it has to maintain legacy software at great cost, or risk alienating huge numbers of users/customers .... because up until now, Google have been able to:

(a) Easily maintain older versions of its Android operating system, and
(b) Rely on the fact that its customers were constantly upgrading their devices to the latest, which meant the majority were no more than one or at most two versions of the OS behind the latest release.

However a security firm has recently identified exploit vulnerabilities in the 'webview component' of Android 4.3 (aka 'Jelly Bean'), and this discovery includes the other older versions of the android operating system. The 'webview component' is used to display webpages on all Android devices ... that is mobile Phones, Tablets and even Laptops.

They informed Google of this potential exploit vulnerability, expecting that the company which doesn't 'do evil', would announce a patch release date .... but much to their surprise, they were informed that only the latest two versions of android, version 4.4 (known as 'Kitkat') and version 5.0 (known as 'Lollipop') are now covered by the relevant security patches.

This has left all Android users on older version i.e those on android 4.3 or earlier, with a major security flaw ... this actually represents about 60% of all Android users.

Now this decision isn't necessarily a surprise, although Google has made no official announcement of this new security coverage policy, which when you think of it, was kinda sneaky, for a company whose motto was 'don't be evil' ... but its certainly ironic, as on their way up, they would often point out the differences between themselves and the 'big boys', especially Microsoft.

Now that they are one of the big boys, they are finding that getting up the greasy pole while spouting on about the behaviour of others is one thing, staying there while still spouting on about being good is entirely another.

Like Microsoft, they have found that you can't maintain operating systems forever ... so just as Windows 3.1 and Windows XP are now consigned to the dustbin of history (or death by a thousand bugs if you still have machines with them on), so the older variants of Android OS are no longer receiving security support, and therefore will quickly become unviable.

But unlike Microsoft, who not only publish the support life-cycles of their software products (and even extend them, as they did with XP when there is overwhelming demand ~ most of China was on cloned copies of XP until recently), Google have not publicised information about the support life-cycles of Android versions, and seemingly are prepared to let 60% of its customers risk burning.

That looks like a rather evil thing if you ask me .... welcome to the real world Google.

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