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Summary:

The U.S. government has settled on Google’s Android platform for secure phones, mainly because the software is open and can easily be modified. But what about the dreaded Android software updates? No worries; the government says it can provide them within 2 weeks of Google’s changes!

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The U.S. government has settled on Google’s Android platform for secure phones, mainly because the software is open and can easily be modified. CNN reported the news this morning, noting that Apple was asked to provide access to its code so the operating system could be modified specifically for secure government use. Apple declined to offer such access.

The modified Android software will be installed on commercially available handsets and can be used to support top-secret dispatches; something that the government doesn’t yet allow for. In the future, soldiers could use the handsets to locate other troops or quickly communicate orders to a group securely.

Ironically, the government group formed to manage the Android software project has already made a bold claim that makes the carriers look silly from where I stand.

Information-security director at George Mason University, Angelos Stavrou, is a contractor on the project and said when Google updates its Android software, an update to the secure Android phones can be ready within two weeks. Given that carriers can take 6 months or more to provide Android updates on some handsets, one of them should hire Stavrou away from this project!

  1. “Given that carriers can take 6 months or more to provide Android updates on some handsets”

    This is not because of inefficiency or difficulty in carrier supported updates. This is because software updates for carriers are a low priority inconvenience.
    Carriers want to sell you new phones, not provide free updates to your existing phone.
    The reason why it takes so long is because they don’t put any real money in the direction of updating the software for older equipment because it doesn’t pay to do so.

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    1. Yup, that’s definitely part of the reason; something we’ve said here many times before. I’d also add that handset makers with custom UI skins have more work to do for upgrades, which slows things down. Guess there won’t be a G.I.Joe them on the gov’s Android phones. ;)

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    2. William Diaz ✔ Friday, February 3, 2012

      If carriers wanna sell us new phones, they gotta keep up with updates for at least the life of the product, 2-3 years. Happy customers upgrade. Unhappy ones keep the same phone, hack the hell out of it (like I have) and lower our plans and ARPU over time.
      I also think with the updates coming so often (yet carriers take 6-9 months to push them out) they gotta bite a bullet, either launch the updates immediately (within 60 days) or offer 1-Year Contracts and Upgrades again, at the low prices they have previously to their new greedy longer terms.

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  2. They aren’t wasting time on pretty skins.

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  3. A big win for Google and “Open Source”

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  4. If you’ve ever worked as a Contractor for the Government you’d know that it can’t even issue contracts and work orders in less than 6-8 weeks. So, the idea of them deploying anything that quickly is a total joke.

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  5. Impressive, most impressive! Friday, February 3, 2012

    Just a word:
    No!

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  6. Does this mean the Government’s phones already have Android 4.0?

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    1. Nope. Android 6.0: Krispy Kreme. ;)

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    2. John Harrington, Jr. Friday, February 3, 2012

      Learn what’s new with Android 4.0 ICS while its still the hottest OS available http://bit.ly/android4ics

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  7. Lindsworth Horatio Deer Friday, February 3, 2012

    Best decision the US Govt could make at this time. Remember the amazon kindle Fire is effectively using the same hardware as the RIM Playbook but with Android as the OS and Firmware, so its rock solid. nothing wrong with android, just the Telcos and Google making the updates poorly and the software not properly matching the hardware. Google needs to better coordinate developers telcos and telecoms equiptment makers if Android is to dispel the myth of fragmentation and poor support

    http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2012/01/apple-ipad-3-launch-on-march-2012.html

    http://www.geezam.com/amazon-sells-5-5-million-kindle-fires-apple-ipad-sales-drop/

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  8. It’s probable that Stavrou is estimating updates based on the availability of the source code and the possibility for any developer to customize the code themselves without having to wait for any carrier.

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  9. Richard Garrett Friday, February 3, 2012

    I will accept that the feds can update the OS in two weeks but what I can’t figure out is why the rush? If government cell phones are proven to be secure and reliable, why risk those attributes simply for bragging rights on a world record update to….Krispy Kreme?

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  10. “doesn’t yet allow for”. Awful writing.

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