Google is reportedly embarking on a quixotic quest to unify the versions of Android circulating in the wild, by trying to bar access to Google Play if a device ships with a too-old revision.
Android Police is claiming to have received a copy of a Google memo, stating that Google Mobile Services certification will no longer be available to any device submitted by an operator running anything less than Android 4.2.
If the report is accurate, Android 4.2's approval window closes on April 24 2014, while the window for Android 4.3 closes on 31 July 2014. Without GMS certification, the devices won't be able to access Google Apps.
The memo seen by Android Police says: “Starting February 2014, Google will no longer approve GMS distribution on new Android products that ship older platform releases. Each platform release will have a “GMS approval window” that typically closes nine months after the next Android platform release is publicly available. (In other words, we all have nine months to get new products on the latest platform after its public release.)”
Android Police notes that consumers won't notice much at all: they don't choose their operating systems when they buy devices, and only stay up-to-date if they actually install their over-the-air updates.
It will have an impact at the bottom end of the market, since low-cost mobe-makers shave costs by avoiding developing new software.
However, by squeezing the Android shipping time window to conform to Google's historical two-releases-a-year cycle, OEMs will have less time for their own software development. Some of that might be regrettable, but as AndroidPit notes, it'll also mean OEMs might “rethink the need to put excessive skins on top of Google’s baby” and stick closer to a single Android experience.
While a marginal win for security on new devices, Android's biggest security issue is the huge number of old and unpatched versions of the software in punters' hands. For most users, “get a new version of Android” is synonymous with “buy a new device”. ®