Updates for open source software have always been a rough patch of the whole user experience. Product forums are flooded with people complaining about their hardware not being supported with a new update, or in case of software services like word documents, the software being unreliable, unstable and sometimes not working at all. This is not a problem with just open source software though, even large scale closed source systems like Windows have issues with updates.

I don’t want to talk about this in journalistic terms, I would like to cover this topic to explain why that is so. So why is it that companies sometimes screw up their updates so to speak or they would exclude some devices or users from getting an upgrade altogether. The problem is 2 fold. One being the hardware and the other offcourse is software.

So much hardware

Most companies have a lot of hardware configurations and usecases to support. In the case of Android or Windows, the software is available for anyone to use, you can download the source for Android and build it for your specific hardware configuration and in the case of windows, you could buy a copy and install it on any devices you like. This means the subset of devices the companies and the community would have to test is practically infinite. It is impossible to test all these configurations and proactively fix issues that might arise. In the case of Apple, since they control the hardware and software, supporting older hardware is not that much of a problem.

So many components

All modern hardware is assembled from components from multiple suppliers all over the world. Every component could have a different support life cycle from its manufacturer which leads to complications around getting support for future software changes.

Disregard for security and privacy

Many companies reply on the user not being tech savvy and don’t bother about the product once shipped. The is particularly prevalent in IoT devices, routers, washing machines, ovens, cars and other consumer appliances. Some of these don’t even the feature to get Over The Air (OTA) updates from their manufacturers to patch bugs and sometimes serious exploits.

Bad business model

If as a company your business model relies on only selling new hardware to the user like a lot of Original Device Manufacturers (ODMs), updating existing devices to latest software and security patches is not desirable or rewarding.

This has been getting better but its very far from perfect. The only way to fix it is for us as users to not buy products that cannot be updated over the air by manufacturers. It helps to check or ask the manufacturer how long the product will be supported and the process followed in case a serious security exploit is found, cuz there are always bugs.


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