Remember how having an “open” operating system was going to save all of us from the big, nasty Apple? We would all frolic through fields of daises, enjoying the openness of Google’s Android OS, and late at night we would get together and sing camp fire songs with one another by the glow of our glorious Android phones.

And then it dawned on everyone that maintaining an open OS that allows people do whatever they please with it kind of makes a gigantic mess.

Here is a chart of some of the things going on with Android on various phones.  This is by no means a comprehensive list.

Android Ver. Release
Dell Aero 1.5
Dell Streak 1.6
HTC Hero 2.1 Will not receive 2.2
Motorola Droid 2.2 Early August with No tethering. Wi-Fi Hotspot support or Flash
Motorola Milestone 2.0 Late Q4 for Europe and Korea, still being evaluated for Canada, Latin America and Mexico
Motorola Cliq 1.5 Under review for 2.2
Motorola Cliq XT 1.5 Under review for 2.2
Motorola Backflip 2.1 Under review for 2.2
Motorola Devour 1.6 Not receiving 2.2
Samsung Behold II 1.6 Launched with 1.5, barely got the upgrade to 1.6

androidEssentially, buying an Android phone has become somewhat of a crapshoot of what you will end up with.  All of this was inspired by PC World pointing out how the Android 2.2 roll-out is all over the board for Motorola.  This was followed up by Gizmodo pointing out the Dell Aero, which is just now launching, comes with Android 1.5 when 2.2 is already out.  Android is a great idea in concept, but with everyone throwing their own customized skins over the OS, it’s making it difficult for them to update in a timely fashion, and that is if they even bother doing it.  However, the audacity of launching at this point of time with an older OS isn’t just stupid, it’s insulting to the customers.

Part of the issue here, and why Android will have a hard time ever beating Apple’s iOS is that people just want things to work.  If they hear about a great app, they just want to download and not worry about, “Oh, my OS is an earlier version, I can’t get it.”  Yes, it’s true Apple has some apps that only work with iOS 4, and not all devices have that yet, but it is still a much more limited situation than what is going on with Android.  The level of confusion gets even worse in Android’s case because people may know they have “Android”, but could be clueless when it comes to version numbers, leading to a lot of anger when they find they can’t download something from the Marketplace.  They have Android, darn it, that means they should be able to download it!

Android is becoming its own worse enemy in the smartphone OS wars due to the ease of customization, and the lack of requirement of which version a phone carries.  Can you imagine the frustration of picking up a phone running 1.5 right now?  ”Oh, those voice commands sound cool!  How do you do that again?”

Is there a solution?  Yes, but it’s not one that anyone will like, and it will take away the illusion of being open, so I’m not holding my breath for Google to try to control what companies do.

What say you?  Does Google need to clean up the mess that is Android releases?