Motorola Starts Android 4.0 Rollout To Xoom, But 3G Owners Must Wait

Android tablet makers have been coy about their plans for Android 4.0, the first version of the software to unify the smartphone and tablet versions. Motorola (NYSE: MMI) announced Wednesday that Xoom owners had started receiving the software, but underscored how much control carriers have over Android devices by releasing the update only for those who purchased the Wi-Fi only model of its struggling tablet.

The low profile kept by Android tablet makers at CES was notable, especially given Android 4.0’s promise as the version of Android that would unify the smartphone and tablet worlds and give developers a cleaner interface atop which to build tablet apps. A few companies such as Lenovo and Asus showed off Android 4.0 tablets scheduled for later this year, but tablet mainstays like Samsung were quiet regarding their plans for the new software on tablets.

Motorola fulfilled a promise it made a few weeks ago by starting to ship Android 4.0 to Xoom customers Wednesday, but it appears that only those who purchased the Wi-Fi version will get the update. Motorola didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry wondering when or if those with 3G versions will get the upgrade, which might not matter all that much given how relatively few Xooms have been sold either through wireless carriers or with Wi-Fi connections only. Updated: Motorola said that the 3G/4G Xoom will get the upgrade but declined to provide a time frame for that move.

Chalk it up to another example of how carriers exert so much control over the distribution of updates for Android, a subject discussed at length in 2011 that likely won’t go away in 2012.