This is a painful comparison, especially with Apple. If you bought the iPhone 4 at its debut in June 2010, you are now running the latest software -- iOS 6.1.3 -- just as if you picked up the iPhone 5 today.
This is a key reason Apple leads in customer service surveys, often way ahead of Android smartphones and tablets. With Apple, you know you will be getting software updates for as long as at all reasonably possible. With Android, you can't be blamed for suspecting that you will be kicked to the curb very soon after you buy your device, leaving you with a very sour taste in your mouth for the remainder of your 2-year contract.
So is this Google's fault? Is it Samsung's, HTC's, LG's or some other vendor's fault? Is it the fault of AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) or some other operator? Frankly, who cares. Ultimately, it is up to Google to fix it.
Guess what? Google has been offering a product for two years now that has been exemplary in supporting old devices with the latest software, right away. And that product is Chrome OS, offered in so-called "Chromebooks" (laptops) and "Chromeboxes" (desktop PCs) by Samsung, Acer, HP (HP), Lenovo and, yes Virginia, Google itself.If you bought the very first commercially available Chromebook, made by Samsung, two years ago, you are still getting the very latest software updates, and you get them right away. To date, Chromebooks have been made with single-core Intel (INTC)Intel Atom chips, dual-core Atom chips, dual-core Intel Celeron chips, quad-core Samsung ARM chips and Intel Core i5 chips. Despite all of these dramatically different chips, all Chrome OS devices to date run the same version of the latest Chrome OS. This is an amazing feat. Whether you spend $199 or $1,449 on a Chrome OS PC, you can feel confident that you are not being abandoned by Google. This is one key reason people love Chrome OS, just like they love Apple products -- a lot more than Android. It is also a reason for hope, now that Chrome OS management is now in charge of Android. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you knew that every Android device you bought today would still be running the latest version of Android 3-4 years down the road, just like Apple? If Google could do this, it would greatly reduce the instances of people leaving Android in favor of iOS, Windows Phone and even BlackBerry's (BBRY) BlackBerry 10. Bottom Line: The Real Meaning of Chrome OS Management Forget merging Chrome OS with Android. This is neither necessary nor possible in the short-to-medium run. The real meaning of Chrome OS management taking over Android is that we can expect a more rational product management of Android, where software updates will last 3-4 years instead of 18 months or sometimes less. Android fans should celebrate Chrome OS management taking over Android. Future Android products will be better supported as a result. Expect to hear more about this on May 15-16. At the time of publication the author was long GOOG, AAPL and INTC, and short MSFT.. Follow @antonwahlman This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.