Great infographic (via BGR) on the HTC web site details the number of hoops an individual device manufacturer needs to jump through in order to clear an update for release.
Here’s the link to the infographic page. Look for the text “To see a diagram of the full process”, then “click here”.
The process is complex, as it needs to be, and as it is for Apple and iOS. The difference lies in the cost of communications between all the moving parts. Software development is done in cycles, with that cycle repeated any number of times until the new version is tested and certified as complete and correct. When Apple builds a new version of iOS, all the back and forth between developers and testers/certifiers is done in house. The loop is tightly controlled and, because all the communications are within a single company, that loop is brutally efficient.
When the development and testing cycle spans multiple companies, all with different priorities and agendas, there’s just no way to maintain that efficiency. Even with the best of intentions, parts of the process are out of a particular manufacturer’s control.
Take a look at the infographic. It shouldn’t be hard to see why it takes so long for a new Android release to make its way from the developer’s hands into the customer’s device. It’s also clear why the Android marketplace is so incredibly fractured. With so many moving pieces, there’s just no way to avoid that marketplace inefficiency.